Genetic Theories of Crime Causation.


Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) was considered a founding father of criminology. He approached crime and deviance with a biological explanation (Charles A. Ellwood. 1912). He believed that the genetic makeup of individuals may be a reason as to why they commit crimes by focusing on measurable characteristics (History Extra.2016). Lombroso’s theory of anthropological stated that acts of crime and deviance were inherited, he proposed the concept that individuals can be ‘born criminals’ (Charles A. Ellwood. 1912). He found some biological traits of criminals after 3000 anthropometric measurements (Mumic, I. and profile, V.2017). Lombroso argued that criminals could be identified automatically by specific characteristics such as arm length, face asymmetry and ear size (History Extra.2016).

Research on monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin studies show more evidence that does not fully supports the genetic approach to explain crime. Monozygotic twins share an egg in their mother’s womb that splits to create identical twins and dizygotic have an egg each, therefore are non-identical (Difference Between.2017). Karl Christiansen’s (1977) found that of 3586 twins, 35% of male MZ twins; 13% of DZ twins and 21% of female MZ twins ; 8% of DZ twins committed crime (Google Books.2017).Advantages of this study is that there was a large sample of twins used compared to other twin studies. However, if there was only a genetic explanation then the rate for MZ twins would be higher (

However, Lombroso’s theory on crime with relation to genetics does not consider social and environmental factors (Doherty, M.2003). To fully understand the influence of genetics then other factors will have to be considered ( Individuals may be predisposed into believing that they will become criminals if their parents were one due to socialisation not only genetic reasons.


Doherty, M. (2003). Criminology. First Edition. London: Old Bailey.

Charles A. Ellwood. (1912). Lombroso’s Theory of Crime, 2 J. Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 716 (May 1911 to March 1912)

Difference Between. (2017). Difference Between Monozygotic and Dizygotic Twins. [online] Available at: %5BAccessed 06 Jan. 2017].

Google Books. (2017). MALE CRIME AND DEVIANCE. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Jan. 2017].

History Extra. (2016). The ‘born criminal’? Lombroso and the origins of modern criminology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 06 Jan. 2016].

Mumic, I. and profile, V. (2017). Lombroso’s theory of crime. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017]. (2017). Genes, Environment, and Criminal Behavior. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].



2 thoughts on “Genetic Theories of Crime Causation.

    • Zygosity is not always easy to determine with twins. Previously, zygosity was very hard to determine due to the lack of medical equipment that was available. The number of placentas is not always a clear indicator as they can sometimes fuse together. Hoverer, even in modern day mistakes are made when informing parents of the zygosity of their twins when they are born. DNA testing is very useful in determining zygosity in multiples and is the only way to be fully sure through this genetic testing. A sample of DNA from both child are taken and sent away to be compared for similarities. However this can sometimes be very expensive if you want the information to be accurate and examined very thoroughly.


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