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Sex, status, and criminality: a theoretical nexus.

Authors
  • Ellis, Lee
Type
Published Article
Journal
Social biology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2004
Volume
51
Issue
3-4
Pages
144–160
Identifiers
PMID: 17019828
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

This article offers a theoretical explanation for relationships between social status and involvement in serious and persistent criminal behavior from an evolutionary perspective. The theory's central premise is that natural selection has produced females who bias their mating choices toward males who strive for status. This bias has resulted in males devoting greater time and energy to status striving (relative to females). To account for why nearly all "victimizing" forms of criminality are more common among males than among females, the theory asserts that status striving exists along a continuum of competitive/victimizing behavior. One end of this continuum is epitomized by crude (criminal) forms of the behavior that societies generally discourage and even punish. The other end consists of sophisticated (commercial) forms that societies tolerate and even encourage. According to the theory, most males begin to exhibit non-playful forms of competitive/victimizing behavior around the onset of puberty as they start their reproductive careers. Adolescent males with the greatest abilities to learn will transition quickly from crude forms of competitive/victimizing behavior to more sophisticated forms, while males who have the greatest difficulties learning will transition more slowly. A major deduction from the theory is that genes on the Y-chromosome must be affecting the brain in ways that promote status-striving behavior. This deduction needs empirical scrutiny, although it is consistent with evidence (a) that the Y-chromosome transforms would-be ovaries into testes, the latter being specialized organs for the production of testosterone, and (b) that testosterone alters brain functioning in ways that contribute to both status striving and criminality.

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