Biosocial criminology as a paradigm shift

Authored by: Anna S. Rudo-Hutt , Jill Portnoy , Frances R. Chen , Adrian Raine

The Routledge International Handbook of Biosocial Criminology

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415722131
eBook ISBN: 9781315858449
Adobe ISBN: 9781317936749


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Early criminological research was dominated by the biological tradition as well as multifactor research (reviewed by Hirschi and Rudisill, 1976). Many scholars have named Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician active during the late 1800s and early 1900s, as the founder of criminology (Gibson and Rafter, 2006). Lombroso is best known for his theory of the “born criminal,” the idea that crime is committed by people with “atavisms,” or traits found in earlier stages of human evolution (Gibson and Rafter, 2006). Using measurement of body parts (such as the skull) and observation of physical features, Lombroso created a system by which criminals could be classified into different types. The aforementioned born criminal could not help but to be criminal based on his or her biology, in contrast to the occasional criminal, who had only a slight predisposition to crime and was pushed into crime by social factors (Lombroso, 1889/2006). Thus Lombroso did incorporate biosocial principles into his work.

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