Chapter 7: Psychological/Trait Theories of Crime

Recent Discussions on IQ and Criminal Behavior

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Recent Discussions on IQ and Criminal Behavior

  • In 1977, Travis Hirschi and Michael Hindelang analyzed the history of the research on the link between IQ and delinquency.

    • They maintained that recent research on intelligence and delinquency suggests that a) the relation is at least as strong as the relation of either class or race to official delinquency, and b) the relation is stronger than the relation of either class or race to self-reported delinquency.

    • In reference to official delinquency, they analyzed various studies such as Hirschi’s research on over 3,600 boys in California.

      • The results revealed that family status and IQ are independently related to official delinquency.

  • Wolfgang and his colleagues’ study of 8,700 boys in Philadelphia revealed as strong association between IQ and delinquency independent of class.

  • In reference to self-reported delinquency, West found that 28.4 percent of the worst quarter of his sample on self-reported delinquency had low IQs compared to 16.6 percent of the remaining three-quarters.

  • Hirschi and Hindelang noted that “however delinquency is measured; IQ is able to compete on at least equal terms with class and race, the major basis of most sociological theories of delinquency.”

  • Recent studies have revealed that certain types of intelligence are more important than others.

    • Several studies have shown that low verbal intelligence has the most significant influence on predicting delinquent and criminal behavior.

  • Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve (1994)

    • Argument was consistent with the feeblemindedness research of the early 20th century.

    • People with low IQ scores are somewhat destined to be unsuccessful in school, become unemployed, produce illegitimate children, and commit crime.

    • They also maintained that IQ or intelligence is essentially innate, or genetically determined.

      • Thus, there is a small chance of one improving his or her IQ or intelligence.

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