Outline and Compare Two Theories of Offending [12 Marks]

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Outline and Compare Two Explanations For Offending. Refer to Evidence in
your Answer. [12 Marks]
The physiological approach has two different theories of offending, Lombroso's
Atavistic Form and Sheldon's Somatotype Theory.
Lombroso's Atavistic Form Theory states that criminals have different
features due to a more primitive evolutionary stage of development, in other
words, they have more animalistic features. These features include a prominent
jaw, large ears, high cheekbone and so on. Lombroso believed that each
criminal subtype could be identified by their physical characteristics such as
murderers having curly hair, bloodshot eyes and a prominent jaw line. He
originally believed that these characteristics were inherited and that criminals
were born rather than shaped by society. However he later stated that physical
characteristics only account for one third of criminal behaviour and that the
rest is down to social factors such as education. Most importantly, Lombroso
said that criminals were easily identifiable from the general public because
they looked different.
However, a key weakness of Lombroso's research is that all of his
findings were based on criminals as he only studied criminals. This means he
could not make comparisons and couldn't say whether these physical features
were found in non-criminals too. In other words this made his research
unreliable and ungeneralizable. On top of this, all criminals studied by
Lombroso were found to be suffering from psychological disorders and so it is
also possible that the physical abnormalities were due to the disorder and not
the aspect of criminality. Further disproving Lombroso's is Charles Goring who
conducted research using 3000 criminals and 3000 non-criminals. He found no
significant differences between their physical characteristics.
On the other hand, Lombroso is the first recorded psychologist to say
that criminal behaviour is caused by biological, psychological and social factors.
Because of this he is considered to be the father of modern criminology and
this is considered a strength because he has greatly influenced how we now
assess and perceive criminality.
Sheldon's Somatotype Theory states that we have one of three body
types and are considered to be either `endomorph' (soft and fat), `ectomorph'
(fragile and thin) or `mesomorph' (hard and muscular). Sheldon believed that
this was a continuous scale by which everyone would display behaviours
dependant on his or her somatotype. Sheldon compared the somatotypes of 200
male college students and 200 male delinquents in America. He found that on
average, the students had equal amounts of each somatotype and that the
delinquents were heavily mesomorph.
However, the experiment is often regarded as unscientific as the
classification of body type is unreliable as he used a scale of 1 to 7 to measure

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mesomorphy. This means that the rating on the scale is entirely down to
personal opinion making it subjective and unreliable. Sutherland who
conducted a number of other studies that found numerous associations
between criminality and bodybuilding also argued this. There is also criticism
as Sheldon's research used only men and so this made it ungeneralizable to the
wider population and as it took place only in the US, ungeneralizable to the
rest of the world.…read more


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