Biological Theories of Crime

There are four different theories of a crime. These include psychological theories, social-biological theories, sociological theories, and biological theories of crime. Many early positivists absolutely believed that genetic abnormalities were the cause of criminal behavior.

Lombroso, an early positivist, stated that criminals represented an earlier, savage type of humankind with is advanced notion of atavism.

Hoorten, an early positivist in 1939, claimed that he discovered important and major biological differences in noncriminals and criminals. In his biological theories of crime he stated that burglars and robbers had different biological and physical traits. He said that burglars, often the less violent of the two, most often possessed blond hair, short heads, and nonprotruding jaws. He stated that robbers, often the more violent of the two, possessed short ears, long wavy hair, and broad faces.

Sheldon, and early positivist in 1949, created Somatic Typology. This method consisted of three major body types, also referred to as somatatypes, which included mesomorphs, endomorphs, and ectomorphs. In his biological theories of crime he stated that a mesomorph was athletic and muscular in body type, and their personality was vigorous, assertive, and bold. He stated that endomorphs were soft, obese, and rounded people in body type, and their personality was sociable and fun-loving. He stated that ectomorphs were thin and tall in body type, had a well-developed brain, and their personality type was sensitive, introverted, and nervous. In his biological theories of crime, he believed that mesomorphs, when compared to ectomorphs and endomorphs, were the most likely somatic type to become criminals. Though many feel that Sheldon’s theories were ridiculous, recent biological theories of crime research has replicated this believed link between criminal behavior and body type.

Olweus, a positivist in 1995, closely examined the different factors that often lead elementary school boys to becoming bullies. He studied this as part of his biological theories of crime because of the link between boys that are considered bullies and crime. It is a fact that bullies are four times more likely to be repeatedly arrested as adults, when compared to boys who are not bullies. According to his biological theories of crime, the prototypical bully has a hotheaded temperament and is physically stronger. The family life commonalities include lack of family warmth, discipline in the form of physical punishment, and when aggressive behavior is in the home, the family commonality included permissiveness.

The work and research conducted over many years by biological theorists of crime has lead many in the criminology field to reconsider and consider the potential influence that biological factors have in helping to understand the probable and possible causes of antisocial behavior. Impressive empirical support is now being given to modern biological theories of crime, particularly for specific factors that try to integrate psychological concepts, biological concepts, and social concepts into the general crime theories. It is now becoming widely accepted that certain biological factors have immense benefits to offer criminology theory today. However, most supporters feel that to consider the role of biological theories of crime as a major criminology component, they must be considered mediated by, or along with individual sociocultural contextual factors and individual life experiences.


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