chapter  3
16 Pages

Theoretical explanations for gender differences in fear of crime: Research and prospects

ByJodi Lane

Gender is the most consistent predictor of personal fear of crime and has remained so over decades of research. Specifically, women are almost always more afraid of crime, no matter how, when or where it is measured. Studies in the United States, England, Ghana, Greece and other areas have found women to be more afraid of crime (e.g., Adu-Mireku, 2002; Goodey, 1997; Softas-Nall, Bardos and Fakinos, 1995; see also Warr, 1994, for a review). This is true across racial and ethnic groups as well as social classes. Early research on fear found that despite the fact that women were least likely to be victimized by street crime, they, and the elderly, were the most afraid, and this came to be known as the paradox of fear (Warr, 1994). After these early findings, researchers in both the United States and internationally focused on explaining why women and the elderly might be more afraid. Much of the criticism of this early work focused on the poor measures of fear used in most studies, including their inability to distinguish the emotional feeling of fear from the cognitive component of perceived risk and the fact that measures did not distinguish among fears of different offenses (for examples of these criticisms, see work by Kenneth Ferraro and Randy LaGrange and Mark Warr). Although findings on age differences in fear became inconsistent as measures improved, gender differences in fear consistently remain.