Biological Explanations Of Criminal Behaviour


Gender Differences In Criminality

Males are 6x more likely to receive a conviction than women (Jones, 2008)

There are currently 83,801 male prisoners, 79,945 female prisoners (Home Office, 2019)

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Family Studies Of Criminality

Farrington, Barnes & Lambert (1996) - criminal fathers produce criminal sons, concentration of offending in families

Bijleveld & Wijkman (2009) - confirm parent offending (mother as well as father) predicts risk of offspring criminality

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Twin Studies & Their Issues

Studies compare concordance rates of monozygotic (MZ) & dizygotic (DZ) twins



Misperception of zygosity

Variability of concordance

Disconcordance rates

More similiar environment for MZ?

Definition of criminality

Control for confounds like gender, age & type of crime

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Adoption Studies (Crowe, 1972)

52 adopted children whose biological mother had a criminal record were compared to a matched control group (adoptees without criminal biological parents)

50% of adoptees with criminal biological parents became criminal, compared to 5% matched control group


Definition of criminality

Criminality of adoptive parents

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Adoption Studies (Mednick, Gabrielli & Hutchings,

Adoptees with criminal biological parents slightly more at risk of criminality even when adopted by non-criminal adoptive parents

Correlation between persistence of criminality of child & biological parent

Link stronger for biological mother & for property rather than person crime


Selection effect due to non-random allocation to similar adoptive parents

Definition of criminality

Contamination effect possible

Recognition of possible mediating factors such as quality of pre-natal care

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Eysenck (1996) Summary

MZ - 51.5% concordance

DZ - 20.6% concordance

Unrelated - 8.5% concordance

Half sibling - 12.9% concordance

Full sibling - 20% concordance

Reared apart siblings with criminal biological parent - 30.8% concordance

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Eysenck's Theory Of Personality

Biological & social factors affect our conditionability - learning

Extraverts have relatively low levels of cortical arousal - interferes with conditioning, less susceptible to pain/psychological pain, more risky situations

Other way around for introverts

Neurotics have very labile & responsive ANS - interferes with conditionability, provokes high levels of stress, anxiety & depression (associated with antisocial or violent crime?)

Psychoticism scale correlates with psychopathic disorder - sensation seeking, lack of emotion, aggression, tough-mindedness

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In Prison Populations (Hollin, 2013)

E, N & P will be over represented

Unaminous support for P

Majority support for N

Mixed support for E

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