Intelligence Tests Of Delinquents
One of the most important facts brought to light by the use of intelligence
tests is the frequent association of delinquency and mental deficiency. Although
it has long been recognized that the proportion of feeble-mindedness among
offenders is rather large, the real amount has, until recently, been
underestimated even by the most competent students of criminology.
The criminologists have been accustomed to give mor
attention to the
physical than to the mental correlates of crime. Thus, Lombroso and
his followers subjected thousands of criminals to observation and
measurement with regard to such physical traits as size and shape of the
skull, bilateral asymmetries, anomalies of the ear, eye, nose, palate,
teeth, hands, fingers, hair, dermal sensitivity, etc. The search was for
physical "stigmata" characteristic of the "criminal type."
Although such studies performed an important service in creating a
scientific interest in criminology, the theories of Lombroso have been
wholly discredited by the results of intelligence tests. Such tests have
demonstrated, beyond any possibility of doubt, that the most important
trait of at least 25 per cent of our criminals is mental weakness. The
physical abnormalities which have been found so common among prisoners
are not the stigmata of criminality, but the physical accompaniments of
feeble-mindedness. They have no diagnostic significance except in so far
as they are indications of mental deficiency. Without exception, every
study which has been made of the intelligence level of delinquents has
furnished convincing testimony as to the close relation existing between
mental weakness and moral abnormality. Some of these findings are as
Miss Renz tested 100 girls of the Ohio State Reformatory and
reported 36 per cent as certainly feeble-minded. In every one of
these cases the commitment papers had given the pronouncement
Under the direction of Dr. Goddard the Binet tests were given to
100 juvenile court cases, chosen at random, in Newark, New
Jersey. Nearly half were classified as feeble-minded. One boy
17 years old had 9-year intelligence; another of 151/2 had
Of 56 delinquent girls 14 to 20 years of age tested by Hill and
Goddard, almost half belonged either to the 9- or the 10-year
level of intelligence.
Dr. G. G. Fernald's tests of 100 prisoners at the Massachusetts
State Reformatory showed that at least 25 per cent were
Of 1186 girls tested by Miss Dewson at the State Industrial
School for Girls at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 28 per cent were
found to have subnormal intelligence.
Dr. Katherine Bement Davis's report on 1000 cases entered in the
Bedford Home for Women, New York, stated that there was no doubt
but that at least 157 were feeble-minded. Recently there has
been established at this institution one of the most important
research laboratories of the kind in the United States, with a
trained psychologist, Dr. Mabel Fernald, in charge.
Of 564 prostitutes investigated by Dr. Anna Dwyer in connection
with the Municipal Court of Chicago, only 3 per cent had gone
beyond the fifth grade in school. Mental tests were not made,
but from the data given it is reasonably certain that half or
more were feeble-minded.
Tests, by Dr. George Ordahl and Dr. Louise Ellison Ordahl, of
cases in the Geneva School for Girls, Geneva, Illinois, showed
that, on a conservative basis of classification, at least
18 per cent were feeble-minded. At the Joliet Prison, Illinois,
the same authors found 50 per cent of the female prisoners
feeble-minded, and 26 per cent of the male prisoners. At the St.
Charles School for Boys 26 per cent were feeble-minded.
Tests, by Dr. J. Harold Williams, of 150 delinquents in the
Whittier State School for Boys, Whittier, California, gave
28 per cent feeble-minded and 25 per cent at or near the
border-line. About 300 other juvenile delinquents tested by
Mr. Williams gave approximately the same figures. As a result of
these findings a research laboratory has been established at the
Whittier School, with Dr. Williams in charge. In the girls'
division of the Whittier School, Dr. Grace Fernald collected a
large amount of psychological data on more than 100 delinquent
girls. The findings of this investigation agree closely with
those of Dr. Williams for the boys.
At the State Reformatory, Jeffersonville, Indiana, Dr. von
Klein-Schmid, in an unusually thorough psychological study of
1000 young adult prisoners, finds the proportion of
feeble-mindedness not far from 50 per cent.
But it is needless to multiply statistics. Those given are but samples.
Tests are at present being made in most of the progressive prisons,
reform schools, and juvenile courts throughout the country, and while
there are minor discrepancies in regard to the actual percentage who are
feeble-minded, there is no investigator who denies the fearful role
played by mental deficiency in the production of vice, crime, and
Heredity studies of "degenerate" families have confirmed, in a striking
way, the testimony secured by intelligence tests. Among the best known
of such families are the "Kallikaks," the "Jukes," the "Hill Folk," the
"Nams," the "Zeros," and the "Ishmaelites."
_The Kallikak family._ Martin Kallikak was a youthful soldier in
the Revolutionary War. At a tavern frequented by the militia he
met a feeble-minded girl, by whom he became the father of a
feeble-minded son. In 1912 there were 480 known direct
descendants of this temporary union. It is known that 36 of
these were illegitimates, that 33 were sexually immoral, that 24
were confirmed alcoholics, and that 8 kept houses of ill-fame.
The explanation of so much immorality will be obvious when it is
stated that of the 480 descendants, 143 were known to be
feeble-minded, and that many of the others were of questionable
A few years after returning from the war this same Martin
Kallikak married a respectable girl of good family. From this
union 496 individuals have been traced in direct descent, and in
this branch of the family there were no illegitimate children,
no immoral women, and only one man who was sexually loose. There
were no criminals, no keepers of houses of ill-fame, and only
two confirmed alcoholics. Again the explanation is clear when it
is stated that this branch of the family did not contain a
single feeble-minded individual. It was made up of doctors,
lawyers, judges, educators, traders, and landholders.
_The Hill Folk._ The Hill Folk are a New England family of which
709 persons have been traced. Of the married women, 24 per cent
had given birth to illegitimate offspring, and 10 per cent were
prostitutes. Criminal tendencies were clearly shown in
24 members of the family, while alcoholism was still more
common. The proportion of feeble-minded was 48 per cent. It was
estimated that the Hill Folk have in the last sixty years cost
the State of Massachusetts, in charitable relief, care of
feeble-minded, epileptic, and insane, conviction and punishment
for crime, prostitution pauperism, etc., at least $500,000.
The Nam family and the Jukes give equally dark pictures as
regards criminality, licentiousness, and alcoholism, and
although feeble-mindedness was not as fully investigated in
these families as in the Kallikaks and the Hill Folk, the
evidence is strong that it was a leading trait. The 784 Nams who
were traced included 187 alcoholics, 232 women and 199 men known
to be licentious, and 40 who became prisoners. It is estimated
that the Nams have already cost the State nearly $1,500,000.
Of 540 Jukes, practically one fifth were born out of wedlock, 37
were known to be syphilitic, 53 had been in the poorhouse, 76
had been sentenced to prison, and of 229 women of marriageable
age 128 were prostitutes. The economic damage inflicted upon the
State of New York by the Jukes in seventy-five years was
estimated at more than $1,300,000, to say nothing of diseases
and other evil influences which they helped to spread.
But why do the feeble-minded tend so strongly to become delinquent? The
answer may be stated in simple terms. Morality depends upon two things:
(a) the ability to foresee and to weigh the possible consequences for
self and others of different kinds of behavior; and (b) upon the
willingness and capacity to exercise self-restraint. That there are many
intelligent criminals is due to the fact that (a) may exist without
(b). On the other hand, (b) presupposes (a). In other words, not
all criminals are feeble-minded, but all feeble-minded are at least
potential criminals. That every feeble-minded woman is a potential
prostitute would hardly be disputed by any one. Moral judgment, like
business judgment, social judgment, or any other kind of higher thought
process, is a function of intelligence. Morality cannot flower and fruit
if intelligence remains infantile.
All of us in early childhood lacked moral responsibility. We were as
rank egoists as any criminal. Respect for the feelings, the property
rights, or any other kind of rights, of others had to be laboriously
acquired under the whip of discipline. But by degrees we learned that
only when instincts are curbed, and conduct is made to conform to
principles established formally or accepted tacitly by our neighbors,
does this become a livable world for any of us. Without the intelligence
to generalize the particular, to foresee distant consequences of present
acts, to weigh these foreseen consequences in the nice balance of
imagination, morality cannot be learned. When the adult body, with its
adult instincts, is coupled with the undeveloped intelligence and weak
inhibitory powers of a 10-year-old child, the only possible outcome,
except in those cases where constant guardianship is exercised by
relatives or friends, is some form of delinquency.
Considering the tremendous cost of vice and crime, which in all
probability amounts to not less than $500,000,000 per year in the United
States alone, it is evident that psychological testing has found here
one of its richest applications. Before offenders can be subjected
to rational treatment a mental diagnosis is necessary, and while
intelligence tests do not constitute a complete psychological diagnosis,
they are, nevertheless, its most indispensable part.