Lombroso (1876) argued that
offenders are a separate species,
a primitive genetic form.
Convicts have distinct
physical anomalies e.g. large
jaw, extra hair, sloping brow
Criminals are born, not made.
Leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy -
possessing the physical characteristics
lead the person to be treated in a
certain way, so they act that way.
Lombroso sampled proportions of 38 skulls of
dead criminals and the heads of 3,839 living ones.
He didn't suggest that all criminal acts are carried out
by those with atavistic constitutions, but concluded
that about 40% could be accounted for in this way.
The stereotype of a criminal look
has implications in everyday life
e.g. prejudicing a jury.
Criminality & certain facial characteristics can be affected
by confounding factors e.g. poverty/poor nutrition. So,
not just down to biological factors or genetics.
Lombroso later edited his theory, stating
it could be due to environmental factors.
The sample may have contained those with
learning difficulties - sample not representative as
these individuals may share certain characteristics.
No scientific foundation - Goring (1913) compared
features of 3,000 convicts and a control group. He
found little support for the theory.
Can't establish cause & effect
- self-fulfilling prophecy.
Racial undertones - features identified typical of those of African origin. Even
today same views exist. Rushton argues higher crime rates in afro-carribbean
people are due to genetic differences in IQ and social disorganisation.
Endomorph: soft, fat, round,
fragile, shy, introvert.
Mesomorph: hard, muscular,
200 photos of delinquents and 200 photos of a control group (students)
rated for mesomorphy on a scale of 1-7. Sheldon rated photographs himself.
Average delinquent rating 4.6, non-delinquent 3.8.
Conclusion: delinquency is associated
with a mesomorphic body shape.
Lack of scientific evidence. However, paved the way for later
biological theories and greater understanding of offending behaviour.
Established and reinforces criminal stereotypes - affects
how people are treated in society e.g. interviews, jury.
High testosterone may lead to aggression and body shape -
offending may be due to hormones that would also affect body type.
Some research supports the link between
body shape and criminality, some doesn't.
Sheldons research criticised as he didn't use legal
classification for deliquency, he classified them himself.
Study repeated using legal criteria, didn't show the link.
No causal link -
MZ & DZ twins used to determine if
criminality is genetic - if genetic we'd expect
greater similarity between MZ than DZ.
Lange (1929) found MZ concordance rate of 77% & DZ
concordance rate of 12% - suggesting criminality is inherited.
Grove et al. interviewed 31 pairs of separated MZ twins.
behaviour was assessed at average age of 43. Scored for
drug & alcohol problems & anit-social behaviour.
Drug & anti-social score showed significant heritability. concordance
rate for anti-social personality disorder (APD) was 29%.
Conclusion: traits have a substantial genetic component.
Twin studies support a genetic component, but also indicate
environment may have an influence as even MZ twins don't
show 100% concordance - other factors play a role.
Early twin studies unreliable as not always properly
determined as MZ or DZ and & not always separated.
MZ twins share more similar environment - get treated the same. This may effect result.
Twin studies usually involve small sample - hard to generalise.
Comparing criminal futures of adopted children with
criminal history of their biological & adoptive parents.
Greater degree of
adoptees & their
- suggests genetic
Mednick et al. used
data from Danish
adoption data bank
which covers social
histories of more than
14,000 children. The
conviction rates of
male adoptees were
compared with those
of their biological
Biological parents with convictions,
adoptive parents without: 20% had
convictions. Biological & adoptive parents
without convictions: 13.5% had convictions.
Conclusion: results consistent with modest genetic effect.
Andrews & Bonta (2006) common criminality between
biological parent & adopted child may be side effect
of emotional instability and/or mental illness.
Some children adopted at later stage so early
life experiences may cause the behaviour.
problematic as kids tend
to be placed in similar
environments to that of
their biological parents.
once linked to
People with APD show abnormal
EEG patterns, indicating brain
immaturity which may explain
impulsive, self-centered behaviour.
Raine at al. (2000) used
scans to measure brain
volume in those with ADP
& a control group without.
11% reduction in
brain grey matter
in pre-frontal area
in the ADP group.
Although much is known about chromosomes & genetic disorders,
no single criminal gene has been identified - not an adequate
No direct causal link
anomalies in neurological
function & criminal
behaviour. Isn't possible to
separate from other factors
e.g. socialisation. Animal
studies can't be generalised
to human behaviour.
Deterministic, criminality is inevitable, no free
will/choice. implications - should we punish
someone for a crime they can't control?
Reductionist - attempts to explain
complex offending behaviour at the level
of chemicals & cells, ignoring other factors.
absence of same sex
parent, can't identify
Deviant superego: child
identifies with immoral
parent so internalises a
deviant moral code.
Overharsh superego: adult
misbehaves to fulfill an
unconcious desire for
punishment & guilt.
to accept an
Murderer refuses to acknowledge
crime has been committed.
carries out a lesser
crime instead of a
more serious one.
Person who wants to rape and murder seeks services
of a prostitute to engage in violent sexual activity.
Bowlby said if a child is
deprived of an attachment
with mother in first 2 years,
may lead to delinquency &
Interviewed 44 juvenile thieves
about themselves, their
behaviour and their childhood.
Also interviewed their families regarding their
behaviour and family history, including whether they'd
been separated from their families in early childhood.
Control group of non-delinquent
juveniles used to compare.
Juvenile thieves: 14 identified as
affectionless psychopaths, 12 of these
were separated from their mothers
for a long period during first 2 years.
Juvenile theives: only 5/30 who
weren't affectionless psychopaths had
been separated from their mothers.
Control group: only 2
had been separated.
is liked to childhood
Many without a same sex parent grow up to
be perfectly law abiding - theory isn't accurate.
Defence mechanisms unconcious - can't be tested - no evidnece
for their existence. Theory not scientific & can't be falsified.
According to Freud, ear (of castration) stronger
in boys so males should be more moral.
Statistics show that males commit more crimes.
Doesn't explain all types of crime. E.g. fraud requires careful planning
& execution, not impulsively acting on irrational though processes.
Bowlby's study criticised: data retrospective so likely unreliable.
No cause & effect, some delinquents in the study hadn't suffered
maternal deprivation so must be other explanations of offending.
Our inherited nervous
system dictates our
People vary across two
Criminal type: neurotic-extrovert.
system so they seek
sensation. Not easily
conditioned to learn
from their mistakes.
This combination leads to criminal personality.
100 students defined as delinquent and 100 control
students completed EPI (Eysenck Personality
Inventory). Their E, N and P scores were calculated.
Delinquents had a combination
of higher E,N and P scores.
Conclusion: there's a relationship between personality
type (as assessed using the EPI) and delinquent behaviour.
Zuckerman (1969) - environmental stimulation sought by individuals
isn't necessarily related to extroversion. It may be boredom which
arises from increased arousal rather than decreased.
Theory lends itself to
testing & EPI is
considered reliable tool
for measuring personality.
Several studies show criminals have higher P & N scores, but not E scores - suggests
extroversion is not a criminal trait & there may be others that link to a criminal personality.
Moffitt argues 4 distinct types of young male offender on basis of timing, duration, pattern and type
of crime. These are: stable early starters, adolescent-limited, adult starters &discontinuous offenders.
Just two dimensions is oversimplification. 5
factor model has additional dimensions of
openness to experience, agreeableness &
conscientiousness. So, a neurotic-extrovert
need not become an offender depending on
their psychological make-up in relation to
Deterministic as it states biological factors cause behaviour - inherited nervous system
causes behaviour and determines personality. No free will/choice over how to behave.
Implications: is someone culpable of a crime they commit if the
behaviour is determined by factors outside of their control?
Sample used were servicemen, not criminals. Didn't cover adequate range
of people so specific personality types would have emerged as dominant.
Sutherland's Differential Association
Theory (Learning Theory)
offending learnt through
association with peers &
family whose values we
Exposed to pro-criminal
attitudes, more likely to
offend. Exposed to
anti-criminal attitudes, less
likely to offend.
imitation and direct or
Observe friend stealing,
copy behaviour, get
away with it, repeat.
411 families, boyos,
inner-city south London,
studied age 8-50.
style, family background,
social behaviour, rate &
type of convictions.
41% had conviction
between 10-50. Risk
factors: family criminality,
poverty, poor parenting &
low school achievement.
develops in a context of
inappropriate role models &
dysfunctional systems of
reward & punishment.
Can't explain all
others. One off
crimes also not
Can explain prevalence of crime in
certain areas, usually urban.
Explains how crime can become
endemic in these areas.
Doesn't explain why many offenders cease to offend
when they get old - other factors must play a role.
Founded on scientific principles e.g. empirical research, but perhaps
an oversimplification to apply these to such complex behaviour.
Can't establish causal link between socialisation & criminality.
Socialisation can't be isolated from other factors e.g. genetics.
This focus on socialisation as a key
factor in criminal behaviour represented
a dramatic shift from previous theories
which viewed criminal behaviour as
innate, instinctive or due to weakness.
Studies like Farrington could be taken as evidence for genetic
theory of offending, since high % or sample had criminal
biological parents. 1 analysis of the Cambridge data found
inter-generational criminality across 3 generations.
Theory too general. Has similarities with SLT but none of the detail of the cognitive
processes that might underpin criminal behaviour. Although, as a sociological
theory, Sutherland didn't feel that a cognitive explanation was necessary.