Cesere Lombroso (1835–1909)
Lombroso (1876) argued that the
criminal is a separate species, a
species that is between modern
and primitive humans. He argued
that the physical shape of the
head and face determined the
Compared Italian prisoners to
Flattened or upturned
Hawk-like noses or fleshy
Hard shifty eyes
Scanty beard or baldness
Insensitivity to pain, long
Sheldon believed that people could be classified
into 3 body shapes, which correspond with 3
different personality types.
1. endomorphic (fat and soft) tend to be
sociable and relaxed.
2. ectomorphic (thin and fragile) are introverted
3. mesomorphic (muscular and hard) tend to be
aggressive and adventurous.
Sheldon, using a correlational study,
found that many convicts were
mesomorphic, and they were least likely
to be ectomorphic (Sheldon et al 1949).
Mednick et al (1987) - court convictions,
found 14,000 adoptees amongst them.
Criminal records of biological and adoptive
parents were then investigated.
Many adoptees had criminal biological
parents (strong relationship for sons and
Where there was an improvement in social
conditions there was a reduction in crime
(going against the genetic explanation).
Do criminals inherit bad genes?
% of sons
% of sons
No No 13.5 3
Yes No 20.0 12
No Yes 14.7 7
Yes Yes 24.5 40
What are the merits of these
May explain the relationship between
gender and crime.
Lack of Free Will?
‘Sick’ behaviour rather than ‘bad’.
Most actions defined as deviant are carried
out by people who are physically normal.
Biological approach doesn’t explain why
crime is more likely to occur in western,