Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 July 2009
one of the most consistent criminological findings over time and across cultures is the substantial overrepresentation of males as violent offenders. Males are the offenders in about ninety percent of the U.S. homicides known to the police in the 1990s. This proportion has been remarkably stable throughout American history (see Brearley 1932; Lane 1997; McKanna 1997; Simon 1975; FBI 2000). Women murderers were sparse in Colonial America, rarely acknowledged in the 1800s, and accounted for only a small proportion of homicides in the 1900s. Killings by women are clearly the exceptional case in other countries, and this trend dates back to the Middle Ages (see Gartner, Baker, and Pampel 1990; Hartnagel 1982; Lane 1997; Silverman and Kennedy 1993). Rates of homicide victimization are also far higher among men than women (see Gartner 1990).
Although the gender gap in rates of homicide offending exhibits little change over time, a large volume of literature suggests that there are major differences between men and women in the types of circumstances and situations in which they kill. These differences are most prominent with respect to the killing of intimate partners (see Adinkrah 1999; Campbell 1992; Daly and Wilson 1988a; Goetting 1995; Jones 1980; Jurik and Winn 1990; Wilson and Daly 1992; Wolfgang 1958). Unfortunately, most of these studies examine gender differences with respect to particular variables (e.g., victim–offender relationship, motive, or victim age), rather than in the totality of combinations of offender, victim, and offense elements that define the basic structure of homicide situations.