Women's criminal re-offending: Contributing and protective factors
Thesis DisciplineSocial Work
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This exploratory study concerns the possible relationship between an array of endogenous and exogenous factors that may be associated with women's criminal recidivism in Aotearoa/New Zealand. A mixed methodological approach was employed involving both quantitative and qualitative methods. Primary data were derived from semi-structured interviews with 26 women who had been released from Christchurch Women's Prison over a period of up to seven years prior to 1999. Primary data from the 26 participants were triangulated with interviews with a group of expert informants and with secondary data involving document analysis of the participants' Community Probation records. Correlational and discriminant analyses were conducted with a proportion of the quantitative data. The remaining quantitative data were subjected to descriptive statistical analysis. Qualitative data were analysed thematically according to, but not limited by, the categories already emerging from the primary data. The findings suggest that an array of factors in the social domain plays a significant role in both women's criminal recidivism and in desistance from crime. Factors in the social domain such as criminal association and intimate relationships with current offenders appeared to present as risk factors for women. Desistance from offending was linked to supportive pro-social relationships and consistent social support. Economic factors, victimisation and substance abuse were also indicated as impacting on women's recidivism. The retrospective data yielded a stronger emphasis on the notion of re-offending across the life course in terms of life-course transitions. This life course perspective emerged as having significant utility in terms of understanding the aetiology of women's recidivism and desistance from offending. The findings suggest that both endogenous and exogenous factors need to be considered in relation to women's re-offending and that ignoring the impact of wider socio-structural factors such as poverty and gender tends to create a narrow perception of women's criminal behaviour.