Biological theories of crime

  • Created by: Sheeda F
  • Created on: 21-04-13 19:27
Biological theories of crime
Lombroso, Sheldon, XYY- Super Male
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Defn- Biological theories of crime
See crime as a form of illness, cause by pathological factors specific to certain classes of individuals
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defn B.T 2
Assumes some people are "born criminals". Punishment is inapplicable. bad vs sick
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Why biological theories of crime?
Inferences are made about a persons character based on their physical appearance
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Cesare Lombroso
1835-1909 Italian criminologists, rejected the classica school. Criminality was inherited
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Cesare Lombroso theory 1835-1909
Bodily constitution indicates if a person is a "born criminal"- an atavism (earlier stage of human evolution.C. Lombroso
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C. Lombroso
Observed and compared physical characteristics of italian prisoners to Italian soldiers. Criminals were physically different.
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C. Lombroso's physical traits of a "born criminal"
Asymmetry of face/head, large monkey-like ears, large lips, twisted nose, excessive cheek bones, long arms, excessive skin wrinkles (men-5 traits and women 3)
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Lombroso and tattoos
tattoos signified insensitivity to physical pain and immorality. Most "born criminals" had them.
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"Born criminals"
unsuited for society and violates social and legal rules.
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Frontispiece of criminal man - Lombroso
Claimed that to the trained eye (detective) people would be categorized . A- shoplifters, B- swindlers
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Critique of lombroso
Overlooks bright and handsome criminals, ignores ugly people who live productive lives, theory evades variations over time in crime rates. There should be a steady crime rate since genes change slowly, that's not the case.
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Critique 2.
Lombroso studied the poor, those whose physical development had been affected by poverty and poor nutrition. Not everyone that breaks the law ends up in jail. Neglects grey area in criminality- some people commit crimes, are not caught or jailed.
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Charles Goring
1913- tested concept of "born criminality". Disproved Lombroso's theory. Found no evidence of a physical type of criminal
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Biological theories cont'd
criminality is explained by reference to the offenders' body types (genetics) external observable physical characteristics
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W. Sheldon
(1898-1977) American psychologist. Observed various types of human bodies.
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Sheldon's 3 body types
1. Ectomorph 2. Mesomorph 3. Endomorph
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"Hard gainer", built body, flat chest, fragile, lean, lightly muscled, takes longer to gain muscle
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Athletic, hard body, female-hour glass shaped, male- rectangular shaped, mature muscle mass, excellent posture, gains muscle and fat easily
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Body normal and soft, small hands and feet, upper arms and thighs more developed than the lower parts. High waist, fine hair, soft, smooth skin, large head and broad face.
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B. T. XYY- The Super Male
Extra Y chromosome creates a strong compulsion that the XYY carrier is at extreme risk of committing violent crimes.
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Patricia Jacobs - XYY- The super male
1965 examined 198 Scottish prisoners for chromosomal abnormalities- 12 members displayed XYY (3.5% of prison population)
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Card 2


Defn- Biological theories of crime


See crime as a form of illness, cause by pathological factors specific to certain classes of individuals

Card 3


defn B.T 2


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Card 4


Why biological theories of crime?


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Card 5


Cesare Lombroso


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