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Cesare Lombroso's 'Born Criminal' theory

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bianca hart

on 30 September 2013

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Transcript of Cesare Lombroso's 'Born Criminal' theory

Theories of Criminality
Cesare Lombroso's 'Born Criminal' theory
He developed a list of traits and proposed that if someone had 5 or
more of these traits then they were a born criminal. These traits
include; unusual size/shape of head, strange eyes, facial asymmetry, abnormal teeth, dark skin etc. Other non physical traits include; use of special criminal slang, tattoos and unemployment. He later changed his theories into 3 categories 1) born criminals 2) abnormal criminals 3) occasional criminals. A 'born criminal' is an 'atavism' which is a throw back to an earlier stage of human evolution. His theory eventually became discredited due to the immorality of judging people on their looks. The theory is also not very valid because some of the traits may have happened after the crime took place or could be a cause of the crime, and he only looked at traits within criminals, there was no control group of non-criminals to compare them with.
William Sheldon's Constitutional Theory
He believed there was a correlation between body type and overall
behavioural patterns or temperaments. He argued that there were three
body types that each came with a set of characteristics; 1) endomorphs (fat
and soft) loved comfort, food and affection, and were easy to get along with. 2) ectomorphs (thin and fragile) were usually inhibited, reserved and self-conscious. 3) mesomorphs (muscular and hard) seek vigorous physical activity, were risk-taking and more likely to be aggressive. He had compared 400 boys in residential rehabilitation homes and gathered extensive family background information as well as monitoring their growth over 8 years. This theory lacks ecological validity as only those 400 were monitored and were not a good representation of the population as they were all from one residential rehabilitation home. It also only shows a correlation meaning the body type does not necessarily cause the criminal behaviour as other factors will affect the,m.
Genes - 'warrior gene'
Some scientist believe that some individuals' inherited genes
predispose them to aggressive, impulsive and therefore criminal
behaviour. A gene in the X-chromosome (known as the 'warrior gene') has found to increase risk-taking and retaliatory behaviour and the gene (MAOA-L) can be responsible for impulsive and aggressive behaviour. Because the warrior gene is on the X-chromosome, men inherit it from their mother. Since men have only one X-chromosome, the warrior gene is fully effective if present. In contrast, women have two X-chromosomes, which is why one single warrior gene either has no or less effect. The effect of the warrior gene on women who have it on both X-chromosomes has yet to be established and the warrior gene test is available for men and women.
mid to late 1800's
early to mid 1900's
Brain abnormalities/damage
Research has suggested that aggressive and impuslive behaviours are controlled by specific brain areas; the prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus and amygdala. If any of these areas are not developed normally or are damaged, this could lead to a loss of self-control and potential criminal behaviour.
Study - Dutch family
Five generations of aggressive men (14 men) in a Dutch family with 'Brunner Syndrome' were analysed by Han Brunner. The family tree dated back to 1870 of violent historyand Brunner found a genetic defect on the X-chromosome. Over a course of four years, 28 members of the family were analysed and a marker was found on the X-chromosome MAOA.
Lobotomies have been used to treat the 'criminally insane'. They used surgical incisions in the frontal lobe of the brain to sever one or more brain tracts. The skull would be cut open and parts of the brain would be removed.
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