Are men really more violent than women or is that a myth?

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A quick glance at the statistics seems to tell the whole story: Men commit more acts of violence than women. The U.S. Department of Justice sponsored a National Crime Victimization Study in 2007. This evaluation found that 75.6 percent of all offenders were male and only 20.1 percent were female. In the remaining cases, the victim wasn't able to identify the gender of the offender. According to these results, men commit violent crimes more than three times as often as women [source: United States Department of Justice].

Even taking into account the possibility that many crimes in which a woman commits violence go unreported, such a disparity can't be dismissed. It would take scores of unreported violent acts to even up the numbers. But why is there a gender gap when it comes to violence? Are men hardwired to be violent?

The subject is the matter of much debate among sociologists and psychologists. Theories attempt to explain the difference between men and women. Some suggest that men are genetically disposed to be aggressive. This view fits into the evolutionary psychology school of thought -- in prehistoric times, men had to be able to protect women to ensure the survival of the species. As a result, men developed aggressive behaviors that have been passed down through thousands of years to modern times.

Not everyone buys into the evolutionary psychology view of the world. Some sociologists suggest that the gap may have more to do with a lack of social equality between the sexes. This argument states that the percentages of violent crime committed by men and women would be nearly equal if social status were also equal. But this theory suggests rates of violent crime committed by women should increase over time. According to Darrell Steffensmeier and Emilie Allan, the arrest rate for women accused of committing homicide actually dropped from 1975 to 1990 [source: Steffensmeier and Allan].

But the reason for that drop isn't that women are committing fewer violent crimes. It's that men are committing more violent acts in comparison. Next, we'll look at what factors could contribute to this trend.