The gender gap in theories of deviance: Issues and evidence

  • Smith D
  • Paternoster R
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With few exceptions, the development of theories of deviance and delinquency has evolved along gender-specific lines. Mainstream theories have usually been formulated to explain the deviant behavior of young males. Conversely, those theories developed to explain female deviance have been on the periphery of the field. The gender-specific origins of many deviance theories have led some to argue that “general” theories of deviance are little more than specific theories of male deviance. This article assesses the relative explanatory power of key elements of four major theories of deviance (social bonds, differential association, strain, and deterrence) in accounting for marijuana use among males and females. Using longitudinal data from a sample of high school students, this article examines whether explanatory variables derived from these theories equally explain the behavior of males and females, by examining two aspects of marijuana use: (1) participation decisions and (2) frequency of marijuana use.

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  • Douglas A. Smith

  • Raymond Paternoster

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