Biological Explanation.


Biological Explanations of Offender Behaviour

Atavistic Form:

Lombroso believes that criminals are born and look physically different.

Physical differences include 

  • long arms 
  • asymmetrical face 
  • low receding forehead.


Lombroso 1876 studied the skulls of criminals and found 40% of his sample matched his theory 

Hooton had a control group and also found a difference.


Lombroso lacks a control group, therefore, has nothing to compare it to so there may not be a difference. However when Hooton did find a difference even with a control group clearly supporting the atavistic form.

During the time of Lombroso studies, people with mental health and disabled patients have also imprisoned therefore his study lacks validity because you cannot tell if you are measuring the difference in criminals or medically disadvantaged patients.

A limitation is that this theory could exaggerate the characteristics as the criminals may have been bullied at school for their looks leading to them being isolated from society causing them to do desperate acts. This also causes a lack of validity because we cannot establish if criminals have their characteristics because they are criminals or if the isolation from having the characteristics that cause criminality.

Genetic Explanation:

This explanation states that criminality is inherited through genetic transmission from parents. An example of a gene that has been linked is the MAOA (warrior gene) The gene has been linked to high levels of aggression.


Christiansen did a twin study and found that MZ in females was 21 %, DZ was 8%. In males, the MZ concordance rate was 35% and DZ was 13%. Concordance rate is the likely hood that if one twin has a characteristic so will the other.

Crowe adaption study 50% of children whose biological mother was a crime committed a crime by 18 the control group who did not have criminal parents only had 5% committed a crime.


A limitation is that the Mz concordance…


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