A Systematic Review of the Increasing Role of Women in Violent Crimes


Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics stress on the high rates of imprisonment for women as the result of their increased involvement in violence (Matos et al., 2017). Choy et al. (2017, p.465) contend that legal experts contemplate about the “emerging group of homicidal women…this is a whole new phenomenon.” As per Messinger (2015, p. 154), women no longer take part in “passive crimes” such as theft. Instead, women have become more aggressive, engaging in violent crimes such as murder. In most societies, women are the pillars of family and them engaging in such violent crimes poses a threat to societal values and bonds.

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Statement of the Problem and Context

Throughout the better part of the world’s history, women’s involvement in crimes has largely been invisible or unheard of. Consequently, the women victimization was trivialized and ignored, almost completely. According to criminal justice experts, the crimes committed by women were minor and negligible. However, in the waning decades of the 19th century, this rationality was suddenly undercut. Women’s participation in all kinds of criminal activities dramatically escalated (Cain, 1990). For instance, between 1990 and 1998 only, the number of women in jail increased by over 60 percent while those on probation rose to 40 percent. Since 1990, contrary to the majority’s expectations, in some of the prisons, the number of women involved in violent crimes or related offenses outstripped that of men (Cain, 1990).

From 1999 to 2013, there has been a 48% increase in the female jail population from 68,100 to 100, 940 (Matos et al., 2017). Similarly, Messinger (2015) discovered that there had been an increase in the female jail population by 3.4% annually. According to National arrest statistics by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, women, and young girls are moving into the world of violence that was previously dominated by men (Matos et al., 2017).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to systematically review the increasing role of women in violent crimes. The researcher aims to determine what leads women to engage in violent crimes and how the criminal justice system treats women.

Research Questions

  • What are the factors leading to the increasing role of women in violent crimes?

Due to the high involvement of women in crime, it is imperative to determine the factors that lead to their involvement in a crime. In the 21st century society, women have more freedom, and with this liberty come more opportunities for crime (Heidensohn, 2012). By identifying these factors, it is possible to determine ways of curbing them.

  • How does the criminal justice deal with the high violent female offenders?

Because the criminal justice was designed to deal with male offenders, it is vital to assess how it deals with the influx of violent women offenders. Rehabilitative and treatment needs of violent women offenders have been neglected, and women are forced to adopt or adapt to programs developed for men (Heidensohn, 2012).

  • How are women treated in a trial, sentencing, prison facilities, and rehabilitation?

Since the criminal justice system was designed to deal with male offenders, it is important to determine the equality in the system and whether women are treated better or the same as men (Banarjee, Islam & Khatun, 2015).

Background and Contextual Material

Problems emerging from the ever-increasing women participation in violent crimes presents a need for prevention and rehabilitation programs for women offenders. The following are some of the ramifications of the increasing violent crimes among women:

  • From time immemorial, women have been the primary caregivers in the society. Apparently, more than two-thirds of victims of violence are being taken care of by women. With the increasing women participation in violent crimes, the victims of violence are losing caregivers at a high rate (McKay, 1994).
  • Women play a significant role in holding together the society and upholding the value system of the family. The loss of women to criminal activities, if not taken care of, will jeopardize the social value and ethical system of the society in entirety.

Thesis Statement

Women’s participation in the employment market has been on the rise for the last couple of decades. Though on a smaller scale, the gender convergence in violent criminal activities is similarly on the same movement. Widespread technological progress and women empowerment programs have freed women from the comfort of their homes thus increasing their participation in both employment and violent crime market. With the knowledge the violent crimes are not just for men, it is imperative to investigate the increasing role of women in violent criminal activities and the causal factors thereof. Besides, a systematic review of the criminal justice system processes and performance in dealing with female violence criminal cases should be carried out.

Research Design

This study will adopt a systematic review design. The researcher will undertake a meta-analysis on the topic by reviewing previous studies on the subject with the aim of answering the research questions and providing solutions to the problem.


This study will use mixed-research methods. The researcher will conduct a systematic review of both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative research approach will entail a number of techniques and analyses:

  • Empirical data will be collected
  • The collected data will be modeled and analyzed
  • Experimental controls
  • Manipulation of variables and the subsequent effects recorded.

The qualitative data will be obtained from qualitative studies on the role of women in violent crimes. Major qualitative methods that will be employed include:

Grounded Theory: Through interviews and issuing of questionnaires, the researcher will compile information from various primary sources including, but not limited to, detectives, police, willing women who are or were once involved in violent crime and victims of violence crimes. The researcher will seek to understand the explanation behind various acts.

Case Studies: Through analysis of various recorded events, the researcher will understand the topic through multiple types of data sources. Additionally, ethnography and narrative will be used under qualitative research techniques.

Sources of secondary data will include government sources, peer-reviewed journals, and other academically acceptable sources (Hewson & Stewart, 2016).

Analytic Procedures

The research will mainly use of exploratory analysis. The researcher will seek to understand the underlying reasons behind the escalated women involved in violent crimes. After that, evaluation analysis will be carried out to ascertain the impact of participation of women in violent crimes.

In addition to exploratory and evaluation analysis, data collected will be analyzed using recursive abstraction, which involves summarizing and re-summarizing data sets to arrive at a more refined data (Saunders, 2011). The researcher will collect data from secondary sources and then summarize and re-summarize to arrive at conclusions based on the research questions.



Banarjee, S., Islam, M. J., & Khatun, N. (2015). Theories of Female Criminality: A criminological analysis. International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory7(1).

Bottos, S. (2007). Women and violence: Theory, risk, and treatment implications. Correctional Service of Canada.

Choy, O., Raine, A., Venables, P. H., & Farrington, D. P. (2017). Explaining the gender gap in crime: The role of heart rate. Criminology55(2), 465-487.

Heidensohn, F., 2012. The future of feminist criminology. Crime, Media, Culture8(2), pp.123-134.

Hewson, C., & Stewart, D. W. (2016). Internet research methods. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Matos, R., Cunha, M. I. P. D., Carvalho, P. M., Tavares, R., & Pereira, L. D. M. (2017). Women in prison in Portugal. Women in prison: the Bangkok rules and beyond, 613-644.

Messinger, A. M. (2015). Teaching Interactionist Gender Theory through Speed Dating. Teaching Sociology43(2), 154-162.