Media Representations of Male and Female Crime

Suzanne Agha, The Pennsylvania State University
Darrell Steffensmeier, The Pennsylvania State University

Claims about increasing rates of female as compared to male crime have been made in both academic journals and popular media. While scholarly analysis of rates of offending and changes in male as compared to female rates are being undertaken, the reporting of crime in the popular media has only been addressed anecdotally and has not been systematically examined. We assess representations of crime committed by males and females in popular media by performing a content analysis of articles about crime, which include a reference to the sex-of-the-offender. Four major newspapers in Pennsylvania, in addition to the New York Times and Miami Herald, were examined for a three month period. In addition to sex-of-the-offender and type of crime, information on some crime circumstances including presence of a weapon, number of offenders, relationship among offenders, and the roles of offender were collected. Our main objectives are to: (i) assess the picture of female as compared to male crime portrayed in popular print media and to (ii) gain a fuller understanding of female (and male) criminality since the newspaper reports often provide information on the "gestalt" of crime not available in other published sources.

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Updated 05/20/2006