Lecture 6: The Sources of Violent Crime
– extra notes
Influenced by the growing role of science as a solution to control life’s problems,
century Italian anthropologist and psychiatrist
(1856-1928) founded a new approach called
Instead of focusing on the crime and the offender’s choice about whether
or not to commit it, this approach sought to discover what it was about criminals that
caused them to commit offenses, and which made them different from nonoffenders.
Although their ideas were later disproved, the tradition diffused to the United States.
(1836-1909) and his students
(1852-1934) founded the
Positive school of criminology
influenced by the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, by the positive sociology of
Auguste Comte, and by the work of the sociologist Herbert Spencer, who attempted to
adapt Darwin’s theory to the social world.
criminals in order to isolate the factors that caused criminality.
Lombroso’s ideas were
widely accepted at the end of the 19
century, and their popularity was partly due to the
growing influence of science and Darwin’s theory, and it was also due to the comfort of
the ruling classes with the view that
were not produced by society’s flaws, but
that they were genetic misfits who were born to break the rules that governed the lives of
In the early 1900s, Dr.
found a high correlation between
criminality and low intelligence
, so he concluded that crime was transmitted genetically
through mental inferiority.
Unlike Lombroso, Goring did feel that hereditary
predispositions could be altered by social factors such as education.
In the 1930s,
, a Harvard anthropologist, concluded that
represent an aggregate of
sociologically and biologically
individuals. In the 1950s, William
(i.e. endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph) to particular
He found that the muscular mesomorphs were the type
that were most likely to become involved in delinquent or criminal behaviour.
of some of the
, culminating in the eugenics
movement and policies such as involuntary sterilization made biological theories
However, in recent years, biological theories have once again become
scientifically and politically respectable.
These theorists propose that factors, such as
brain damage, epileptic disorders, and endocrine disorders are direct causes of criminal
The individual is made a delinquent by predisposing forces within the individual
operating beyond his control.
Biological theories consider the direct effect of physical
and physiological processes on behaviour and the indirect effect of environment on the
brain whose processes then control behaviour.
Some people are “born criminal” or