Lombroso - Atavistic Form Theory

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  • Created on: 03-12-12 19:41
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  • Lombroso - Atavistic Form Theory
    • His theory claimed that criminality was heritable.
      • He suggested that there was a distinct biological class of people that were prone to criminality.
      • These people exhibited 'atavistic' features.
      • He suggested they were 'throwbacks' who had biological characteristics from an earlier stage of human development which has since manifested as a tendency to commit crimes.
      • The principle markers of criminality were a strong jaw and a heavy brow.
        • However  he suggested that different types of criminal had different features.
          • sex offenders - thick lips and protruding ears
          • Murderers - bloodshot eyes and curly hair
    • His theory was deeply flawed
      • Crime is neither a natural or a homogenous category of behaviour
        • its a social construction
      • His sample is likely to have contained a large number of people with   psychological and chromosomal abnormalities
        • Has not distinguished adequately between criminality and pathology.
      • Our current understanding of genetic influences on behaviour does not support the idea that complex behaviour are controlled by single genes.
      • Didn't use a non-criminal control group
        • Couldn't establish whether the 'atavistic' features he identified were confined to the criminal population.
    • Modified his theories  extensively over the course of his career
      • He argued for the interaction of biological, psychological and social factors in causing criminal behaviours.
      • He is regarded by many as the 'father of modern criminology' - Shafer, 1976
      • He shifted the study of criminal behaviour from a moral basis to an empirical one
      • He eventually came to believe that only about a third of criminality was directly attributable to atavistic features.
      • Majority of criminal behaviour in his later theories was due to environmental factors such as poverty and poor education


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