The study, the largest of its kind, paints a picture of men who have suffered violence in the home, come from broken families and are often from an ethnic minority.
Psychologists were able to draw up the profile after studying the family backgrounds of 44 serial rapists, and comparing them with those of 20 habitual robbers.
They found a 'great deal of disruption' in the family lives of all offenders, who were selected from 10 prisons across Britain. More than one in three of all rapists and robbers had spent some time in care.
Serial offenders were categorised as those who had committed two or more rapes or robberies. The rapist group had an average of 3.5 convictions, and the robber group had an average of 3.8 convictions. All of the men in the rapist groups had attacked strangers.
The study showed that 43 per cent of rapists and 10 per cent of robbers did not have natural parents at the time of their first offence; 54 per cent of rapists and 19 per cent of robbers had suffered parental violence, and 39 per cent of rapists came from an ethnic minority group, compared with 20 per cent of robbers.
Writing in a journal of the British Psychological Society, Alan Leonard, a senior psychologist at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, said the building of psychological profiles was essential to discovering proper treatment programmes for rapists.