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Gender And Homicide: A Comparison Of Men And Women Who Kill

Nancy C. Jurik, Russ Winn

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This study compares the patterns of homicides committed by women and men. Classic comparison studies of homicides by men and women suggest that each group kills in ways that are reflective of socially approved gender role behavior. More recently, however, research on women who kill suggests that they frequently do so in response to threats of violence by men. In contrast to the gender role and self-protection models of women’s homicides, the liberation hypothesis suggests that patterns of women’s violence will increasingly resemble patterns of violence by men. Based on our analysis of court records of 158 cases of homicides by men and women over a six-year period, we find little support for the liberation hypothesis and considerable support for the gender role and self-protection models. Compared to men, women more frequently kill intimates and kill in situations in which their victim initiated the physical aggression.