Risk preferences and patriarchy: Extending power-control theory

Harold G. Grasmick*, John Hagan, Brenda Sims Blackwell, Bruce J. Arneklev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Power-control theory, at its most abstract level, links gender differences in risk preference to patriarchal family structures. In previous studies, direct tests have focused on adolescent delinquency, which is a specific form of risk-taking, and have used measures of risk preference specific to delinquency. In the present article, we introduce evidence for more general power-control theory hypotheses by employing a more global measure of risk preference and analyzing data from a sample of adults. We have found that among adults who were raised in more patriarchal families, females have a significantly lower taste for risk, globally defined, than males, and that such a gender difference does not appear among adults who were raised in less patriarchal families. The findings provide a basis for expanding the scope of power-control theory beyond adolescent delinquency to include the gender patterning, and changes over time in that patterning, of a wide range of risk-taking behaviors among adults, including risks that are socially and culturally valued.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-199
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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