In one of the highest juvenile delinquency areas in Washington, D.C., teachers were asked to send their most anti-social youngsters to a special test center; 179 youngsters reported, and the testing predicted that 21 of them would not become juvenile delinquents.
Eight years later, 20 of these 21 youngsters were in fact non-delinquents.
The test which made predictions of such amazing accuracy was developed at Harvard Law School by a husband-and-wife team, Sheldon Glueck, Roscoe Pound Professor of Law, and Eleanor T. Glueck, research associate in criminology.
The Gluecks have spent more than 30 years in research which has earned them a reputation as the world's leading experts on juvenile delinquency. They have also gained great prominence as criminologists; Professor Glueck has done especially renowned work in criminal law and war crimes.
Heridity vs. Environment
For many years, a heated dispute has raged among sociologists concerning the causes of adult crime and juvenile delinquency. "Environment," claimed some. "Heredity," instead others. The astounding accuracy of the Glueck's prediction charts suggests that both heredity and environment contribute to delinquency.
In brief, their research indicates that certain personality traits which ordinarily would not cause a person to commit illegal acts may be made criminogenic by environmental situations. Not all individuals respond the same way to any given set of conditions, but certain conditions do tend to develop certain personality traits.
For example, a boy with a strong streak of stubbornness has a greater than average chance of becoming a delinquent if his father is an alcoholic and is unacceptable for emulation; this same stubborn youngster, however, would not necessarily be as likely to become a delinquent if his father were not a drinker.
Through a study of 500 juvenile delinquents and 500 matched non-delinquents over many years, the Gluecks established several traits of personality which might result in delinquency when acted upon by certain environmental combinations. In this same study, the Gluecks destroyed a favorite shibboleth of sociologists, the theory of differential association which maintained that boys bemome delinquents through contact with other delinquents.
The Gluecks have pointed out that "the great majority of boys even in the most criminogenic regions do not become delinquents." Delinquents act the way they do through "differential contamination," or the action of certain environmental factors on youngsters with certain traits. As in a disease, "differential contamination depends not only on exposure to delinquency patterns, but also on the immunity or non-immunity of the particular individual so exposed."
In their studies of delinquency, the Gluecks examined 402 factors for each subject. After intensive comparisons of the delinquents with non-delinquent boys they decided that five factors, all related to the boys' family backgrounds, were the best predictors of delinquency.
The Glueck Social Prediction Chart, probably the most realistic appraisal of the background of delinquency yet made, is based on these factors:
* discipline by father
* supervision by mother