Gender and bad behaviour

Sighs of relief welcomed the government’s early promise
that policy-making would be rescued from angry populist intuition,
the gut instincts of old fogeys wide of girth but narrow of

We were promised evidence-based policy-making. The mantra:
tackle crime and the causes of crime, it was hoped, would inform
the approach to parenting and young people, and infuse
implementation of the Crime and Disorder Act 2000 and the pilot
schemes it produced.

We know that the overwhelming majority of offences in all
categories are perpetrated by boys. We knew that violence and
antisocial behaviour and offenders are manifestations of macho
culture, from Hooray Henry to Andy Cap.

Antisocial behaviour is not about incontinent lads, hapless
because they’re hopeless. It is about dominion. It is a way
of creating chaos, and a form of social control. The promise of
evidence-based policy-making and practice suggested that at last we
might begin to connect the dots between bad behaviour, gender and
generation; that we might begin to understand the correlation
between masculinity and crime that has prevailed since criminal
records began.

The government’s own populist “common sense” draws our
attention back to family and community as the context for this
correlation. It could have factored in the antisocial behaviour
that takes place within the home – the men’s violence against
women that produces one call every minute to a police station about
“domestic” violence – as a contributor to the matrix of public and
private violence and disorder. It might have illuminated the
catastrophic consequences for communities of disempowered, defeated
mothers, victimised by men wreaking havoc, bequeathing to their
boys the message that force and domination are what works.

But the government never investigated those correlations and
contexts although the evidence is clearly there. Indeed, it went
ahead with parenting orders and antisocial behaviour orders without
even assessing the pilots.

The evidence on the relationship between public and private
cultures of violence won’t come out unless you create a
climate that allows it to, as one researcher who helped evaluate
the impact of parenting orders comments. But neither the Home
Office nor the Youth Justice Board have even asked the right

Beatrix Campbell is a writer and

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