Trait Theories (chapter 6, pp. 162-177)
TV shows and movies that portray violent criminals as mentally deranged and physically
abnormal play an important part in our culture.
Trait theories: these approaches look at the combination of biological and psychological
attributes that might explain criminality.
Trait theorists focus on basic human drives that are linked to antisocial behaviour-
aggression, violence and impulsivity. They recognize that crime involves both personal
traits, such as intelligence, personality, chemical and genetic makeup on the one hand and
the environmental factors such as family life, educational attainment, and neighbourhood
conditions on the other
Development of Biological Theories
Cesare Lomborosos work on the born criminal and identification of primitive atavistic
anomalies is based on what he believed to be sound empirical research established
Raffaele Garofol believed that certain physical characteristics indicate a criminal nature.
Enrico Ferri believed that biological and organic factors cause delinquency and crime.
He also believed that criminals should not be hed personally or morally responsible for
their actions because social forces outside their control cause criminality
Study: “degenerate family” he traced a family’s history for 150 yrs. He claimed he had
proved the existence of hereditary criminality saying fornication is the backbone of
their habits, flanked on one side pauperism, on the other by crime. The secondary
features are prostitution, with its complement of neglect and mis-education in
Another type at looking at criminal anthropology was the somatype: an idea used in a
system developed categorizing people on the basis of their body build. Associated with
the work of William Sheldon
Socio-biology: the branch of science that views human behaviour as motivated by
inborn biological urges and desires. The urge to survive and reproduce motivates
human behaviour (Edmund O Wilson)
o Sociobiologists view the gene as the ultimate unit of life that controls all human
destinies, while environment and experience are viewed as having an impact on
behaviour. Most important, socio-biology holds that people are controlled by the innate
need to have their genes survive.
o They want to ensure their own survival and that of others who share their gene pool
o Sociobiologists view biology, environment and learning as mutually interdependent
factors. Sheldon’s Somatypes:
Body types were associated with personality characteristics.
Sheldon identified 3 categories:
o the endomorph: characterized by a preponderance of body fat (love to
o The mesomorph: characterized by a well developed musculature
o Ectogrpah: neither much muscle tissue, nor body fat (quiet)
The soma type is intended to act as an identification tag
Modern Biological Theories:
Socio-biology has helped receive interest ub the biological basis of crime
Environmental forces can trigger antisocial behaviour in people biologically
predisposed to deviance, or if conditions are right, mediate or offset the effects of
Biological trait theory has several principles: First different