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

"intellect sound."

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

8-year intelligence.

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.