Homicide and Gender


When people hear the word killer, people imagine dark figures lurking in alleys, awaiting new victims, and brutal robbers who assassinate store clerks after looting cash drawers. When women are identified as homicide suspects or seen being arrested, the public gets shocked. Regardless of whether the victims are family members, acquaintances, or strangers, women who kill present a sharp contrast to the common image the society holds of the homicide offender as tough, scary, and male. This paper presents the subject of gender and homicide, addressing themes such the reason why there is a strong correlation between gender and homicide, and other influencing factors that contribute towards homicide rates.

Describe The Relationship Between Homicide And Gender

Women do commit homicide. Although they do so at a lesser rate than men, women’s homicide is an important component of society’s experience with lethal violence. Federal bureau of investigations statistics show that those who commit homicide are predominantly, but not exclusively male. Men and boys are far more often the perpetrators and victims of homicide than are women. This pattern has remarkably been stable, holding across time and across nations. However, there are studies that have found that gender is as much a predictor of homicide as other factors such as social class, race, economic status and cultural differences(Michael & Aronson, 2004).  For example, at the macro level, the causes for gender-specific homicide are not as distinct. In cross-national studies, economic inequality, cultural support for violence, and disrupted families are positively associated with homicide rates. This tends to hold for both male and female homicide rates, thus contributing to the growing body of evidence that gender-neutral, macro-structural variables tend to predict both male and female homicide rates, as opposed to gender specific variables predicting each.However, these studieshave failed toexplain the gender gap, that is, why in recorded national statistics, males exceedingly commit more homicide than females do.

Why Such A Strong Correlation Exists

Female homicide victimization is an expression of patriarchal control and as social, political, and economical disparities between men andwomen gradually decline, violence against women will also decline. Male homicide victimization rates have long been higher than females and this difference will widen further over time as women’s social status improves relative to men.

To understand the overrepresentation of the male gender in homicides, there is need to understand masculinity and crime at the individual level, as well as the social construction of masculinity. Crime is one of the many patterned ways that masculinity is performed. In situations in which men commit homicide, murder can be a process of affirming masculinity(Kanazawa, 2008).Ethnographic evidence further illuminates distinct scenarios of masculine homicide. One common scenario is when men use lethal violence to control the behavior of female sexual partners. It is possible that this stems from the notion that males expect to have a right to possess a woman. In this case, the use of violence is a matter of maintaining control over women, a notion that may be a key aspect of masculine socialization. In the case of male-on-male violence, masculine homicide usually involves a defense of a man’s honor. Other times lethal violence is used to resolve conflict. The conceptual framework that emerges involves themes of masculine domination, as well as masculine competition for status and honor. What make these scenarios distinctively masculine is that women rarely commit homicide for the same reasons men do.Men are more likely than women to kill strangers or acquaintances. Men are also more likely to commit suicide during the course of an argument that involves status completion or “saving face.”

Do you believe there are biological influences at work or do you believe psycho-social and cultural influences at work? Also consider factors such as age, socioeconomic class, victim-offender relationship and availability of weapons. Discuss the significance you attach to each of these factors.

I believe that biological, cultural and psycho-social influences are at work. Socio-biologists contend that there is a biological predisposition among men to commit violent acts, but that this same propensity is not present in women.To this extent, I agree that biological factors play a part in homicide cases, however, the bulk of evidence also indicates that it is not biological factors that determine how men behave, but rather, it is social and cultural factors that influence such gender-specific behavior.In explaining the link between masculinity and homicide, scholars have appealed to cultural factors and role expectations. That is, culturally specific behavioral norms are different for boys than they are for girls.

Lifestyle theorists hold that because males are less likely than females to be supervised by capable guardians, men are more apt to be in situations that are conducive to offending. That is, as part of the gender socialization process, women are subject to greater surveillance and supervision than men are. Additionally, scholars who have found support for the power of socialization in explaining the link between gender and violence point out that boys and girls are differently socialized. Boys are more likely to be encouraged to act aggressively while girls are more likely to be encouraged to act passively, which translates to violent behavior later in men’ adult life.

According toCooper & Smith(2011), age is a critical variable in understanding the relationship between masculinity and homicide. Homicides tend to be committed almost exclusively by young people. Individuals between the ages of Fifteen and Thirty-Four commit three-quarters of all homicides. Race and geographic locations are also important indicators of homicide. Homicide offenders are disproportionately African American, the majority of which are of low income and live in urban areas. Some studies contend that race is a stronger predictor of homicide offenders than gender. The high involvement of ethnic minorities in homicide is often explained by their marginal status, their lack of access to societalresources, and their concentration in socially disorganized urban areas.

Availability of firearm also plays a critical role in explaining homicide rates. According to Hepburn & Hemenway(2004), more than 60 percent of the cases of homicides in the United States involve the use of a firearm and firearm possession. This is particularly the case with handgun ownership.Class also tends to be a significant variable in homicide studies. Most studies have found that the two most important factors in understanding homicide to be masculinity and lower-class status. The lack of access to power and economic rewards leads males to use violence as compensation. That is, violence may be an alternative way of securing honor or reputation when it is otherwise unavailable to men in lower-class positions. The need to preserve honor or display bravado may be structured according to where males exist in the social hierarchy.


In conclusion, because very few men actually commit homicide, gender alone is not a sufficient explanation for the link between homicide and differential rates of homicide between the two different genders. Other factors interact with gender to increase the probability of homicide. Such factors include biological influences, psycho-social and cultural influences as well as age, socioeconomic class, victim-offender relationship and availability of weapons.



Cooper, A., & Smith, E. L. (2011). Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008. U.S. Department of Justice: Offi ce of Justice Programs; Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Hepburn, L. M., & Hemenway, D. (2004). Firearm Availability and Homicide: A Review of the Literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9(4), 417-440.

Kanazawa, S. (2008, July 3). Why do men commit violent interpersonal crimes? Retrieved March 19, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/200807/why-are-almost-all-criminals-men-part-i

Michael, K., & Aronson, A. (2004). Men and Masculinities: A Social, cultural and Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.


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