Biological Theories of Crime

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  • 1. Advanced Higher Modern Studies
  • 2.
    • Evaluate key studies which attempt to link biology and genetics to criminal behaviour
    • Analyse the value of such studies and their contribution to the field of criminology
  • 3.
    • Although flawed, as in Lombruso’s (1876) attempt to classify criminal atavistic types biological theories have generally captured a great deal of attention.
    • Many of the studies have lead to further, more detailed work which is of value, such as the examination of psychological factors and mental illness in criminals.
  • 4.
    • All studies have simply tried to link a single biological feature to criminal behaviour e.g. facial appearance.
    • It is now widely accepted that a range of factors contribute to a person’s likelihood to commit a crime.
    • However, it is important to understand the studies and their place in explaining why some people commit crime.
    • Lombroso’s ideas were mirrored in later studies, so in that sense they are significant.
  • 5.
    • Sheldon suggested that humans could be grouped into three body types.
    • Ectomorphs
    • Endomorphs
    • Mesomorphs
  • 6.  
  • 7.
    • He concluded that delinquents tended to mesomorphy.
  • 8.
    • “ The mesomorph seeks and needs vigorous physical activity, enjoys risk taking and is adventurous.”
    • Sheldon argued that the mesomorph is likely to have a high pain threshold, will be aggressive and callous and may be ruthless.
  • 9.
    • Sheldon pictured (naked) ‘delinquents’ and compared their body shapes with ‘normal’ students at Yale.
  • 10.
    • Followed Sheldon’s research in “Unravelling Juvenille Delinquency”
    • Concluded that the majority (60%) of delinquents were mesomorphs
    • However, other research that they themselves completed indicated that the family and early childhood experiences were factors in criminality.
  • 11.
    • Confirmation of prejudices
    • Evidence of a criminal class
    • Psychologically comforting
    • Scientific approach
  • 12.
    • Studies have shown that people widely believe there is a criminal ‘type’
    • This stereotype can influence perception of innocence or guilt
  • 13.  
  • 14.
    • Evidence of enthusiasm for biological theories of crime ( even if flawed)
    • Empirical data followed scientific principles
    • Weaknesses in research led to academic study in significant directs.
    • Evidence of social identity theory.