(Fox et al., 2015; Levenson and Socia, 2016; Wolff et al., 2017). Moreover, when women are
violent, it has been found that it is more likely to be within the family or relationship compared to
men whose aggression is more commonly out of personal relationships (Monahan et al., 2001).
Whilst there is mounting evidence to suggest that victimisation is a key factor in the perpetration
of crime, it is important to note that this alone cannot be attributed as being directly responsible
for offending patterns (Smith, 2017). Furthermore, there are many victims who have suffered
abuse who do not perpetrate crime; similarly, there are many men who are also victims of abuse/
trauma so previous victimisation cannot be attributed as a solely female issue. Moreover, the
focus of women as “victims”in criminal justice settings have been criticised arguing that such
approaches exaggerate the premise of victimisation. As a result, this can lead to the removal of
agency and accountability from the offender, thus leading to the offender determining themselves
as helpless (Baskin and Sommers, 1998; Wolf, 1993).
Whilst there is overwhelming support for the importance of the “victim role”in women offenders,
there are other avenuesof research that suggest alternativeexplanations for offending behaviours.
For example, a bodyof research suggests offendingis a result of “necessity”and becomes routine
to feed families,( Byrneand Trew, 2008), as a result of financialproblems (Rettinger and Andrews,
2010; Verbruggen et al., 2015), to feed a drug habit (Greenfeld and Snell, 1999; Huebner et al.,
2010), or because of pressures from other individuals (Scott and Dedel, 2006). This premise has
links with historical developmentsof strain theory, where individualsare faced with a gap between
their responsibilities and their current circumstances due to which strain occurs (Merton, 1957).
This notion is echoed by Sharp et al. (2016), who highlight that failures in societal systems
contribute to the problems amongst women offenders. However, contrasting bodies of research
suggest that weakfamily bonding and high levels of familystrain were poor predictors of criminality
amongst women perpetrators (Cernkovich et al.,2008).
Contrastingly, other areas of research have outlined more positive motivations for offending
behaviours amongst women. Findings suggest that women are more empowered in their
offending actions and make informed choices to follow criminal lifestyles (Baskin and Sommers,
1998; Maher, 1997; Miller, 2002) or they perpetrate for the thrills and excitement and a sense of
belonging that comes with offending (Ajzenstadt, 2009; Brookman et al., 2007). The discussed
research offers several insights into offending motivations; however, there is a need to test these
premises further to more clearly determine women offender’s typologies.
The Experience of Crime
Traditionally, crime theories have focussed on a wide range of factors such as social issues,
opportunity, biology and personality as key to explaining the cause and persistence of offending
behaviours. An alternative perspective that has been proposed highlights the potential of
examining criminal acts from the viewpoint of the offender. Bernasco (2010) highlights the value of
this approach positing that offenders are “experts”in notions of criminal behaviour, as they are
the ones undertaking such crimes. It is argued, therefore, that when developing theories of crime,
it is crucial that those involved are able to offer their phenomenological insights and experiences.
One logical way of exploring this is to ask offenders to share their life stories and experiences of
crime utilising narrative psychology.
Narrative theory suggests that to make sense of the world, individuals develop a story, or
narrative, in which they put themselves as the central character (Baumeister and Newman, 1994).
Within the story narrative, identities are formed through interactions with various characters,
situations and events. Life experiences are crucial in helping individuals to form their identities,
narratives assimilate and events are internalised from all aspects of their lives including historic,
current and anticipated future events (McAdams, 2001). It is suggested that narratives develop
through varying stages and continue to progress throughout one’s life (McAdams, 1988).
The importance of adolescence is highlighted by McAdams (1988), in determining whether a
well-adapted narrative view of oneself is developed during a time when there are continuous
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JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGY
VOL. 9 NO. 1 2019