World War II and Its Effect on the Sex Differential in Arrests: An Empirical Test of the Sex‐Role Equality and Crime Proposition*

Darrell J. Steffensmeier, Alvin S. Rosenthal, Constance Shehan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

A common explanation for the decrease in the sex differential in arrests during World War II attributes it to a change in female sex‐role behavior. Because of the wartime equalization of sex roles, particularly of expanding occupational roles of women, female arrest rates began to approach male rates. Two alternative explanations appear equally plausible: (1) changes in the sex‐age structure of the population at risk and (2) changes in official reactions to female “sex offenders” over the prewar to wartime period, as reflected in the differentiation in types of crimes for which males and females were arrested during World War II. The analysis examines these two alternative explanations, and finds that: (a) by simply correcting for the sex‐age structure of the population, the narrowing of the sex differential is reduced considerably; and (b) by taking into account type of crime, and specifically by omitting offense categories that reflect the paternalism and double standard of sexual morality in society, the narrowing of the sex differential disappears. Finally, the predicted special effects of World War II on female arrests for property crimes did not materialize.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-416
Number of pages14
JournalSociological Quarterly
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1980

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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