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Offenders with Developmental Disabilities


For over a century, developmental disabilities have been associated with crime in prejudicial and pejorative contexts.

Offenders with Developmental Disabilities provides a balanced, comprehensive review of the prevalence, nature and development of offending by those with intellectual disabilities. Not only does this volume include coverage of evidence-based assessment and treatment ideas, strategies and plans, but also places the field in a ...

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For over a century, developmental disabilities have been associated with crime in prejudicial and pejorative contexts.

Offenders with Developmental Disabilities provides a balanced, comprehensive review of the prevalence, nature and development of offending by those with intellectual disabilities. Not only does this volume include coverage of evidence-based assessment and treatment ideas, strategies and plans, but also places the field in a historical, legal and ethical context.

William Lindsay, John Taylor and Peter Sturmey have brought together a wealth of contributors from differing backgrounds to share new material and knowledge of assessments, treatment, and service issues in a single volume. Divided into five parts, Part I opens with theoretical issues; Part II deals with legal and services contexts including ethical concerns; Part III considers risk assessment, general assessment and approaches to evaluation; Part IV addresses specific issues of sexual offending, anger and aggression, fire raising, dual diagnosis, female offenders and personality disorder; Part V concludes with service development, professional and research issues.

Forensic practitioners and students from psychology and psychiatry, lawyers and advocates, nurses and social workers will all find this comprehensive and practical book an inspiration in taking this field forward.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a publication which is long overdue...a comprehensive overview...a consistently well written and invaluable reference text..." (Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, Vol 18 05)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

William R. Lindsay,PhD, Consultant Forensic Clinical Psychologist, The State Hospital, Carstairs; Head of Clinical Psychology (Intellectual Disability) NHS Tayside & Chair of Learning Disabilities, University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee, UK
Bill Lindsay is Consultant Forensic Clinical Psychologist at the State Hospital, Head of Clinical Psychology (Learning Disabilities) in Tayside and Professor of Learning Disabilities at the University of Abertay, Dundee, Scotland. He is a practicing clinician, has over 150 publications, and has directed several major research projects.

John L.Taylor, DPsychol, Head of Psychological Therapies&Research and Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Northgate & Prudhoe NHS Trust, Northumberland & Principal Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Since qualifying as a clinical psychologist, John Taylor has worked mainly in developmental disability and forensic services in community, medium secure, special hospital and prison settings in the UK. In recent years he has published work related to his research interests in assessment and treatment of offenders with developmental disabilities in a range of research and professional journals.

Peter Sturmey, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology, Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York & Research Associate at the Institute for Basic Research, Staten Island, USA
Peter Sturmey has published widely on intellectual disabilities, especially in the areas of challenging behaviours, functional assessment, dual diagnosis and staff training.
His current research interests include restraint reduction, client preferences for staff members, mood disorders and dissemination of behavioural technology.

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Table of Contents

About the Editors page.

List of Contributors.

Series Editors’ Preface.



1. Natural history and theories of offending in people with developmental disabilities (William R. Lindsay, Peter Sturmey and John L. Taylor).

2. Criminal behaviour and developmental disability: an epidemiological perspective (Anthony J. Holland).


3. Legal issues (George S. Baroff, Michael Gunn and Susan Hayes).

4. Pathways for offenders with intellectual disabilities (Susan Hayes).

5. How can services become more ethical? (Jennifer Clegg).


6. The assessment of individuals with developmental disabilities who commit criminal offenses (Edwin J. Mikkelsen).

7. Risk assessment and management in community settings (Vernon L. Quinsey).

8. Approaches to the evaluation of outcomes (Nigel Beail).


9. Sex offenders: conceptualisation of the issues, services, treatment and management (William R. Lindsay).

10. Treatment of sexually aggressive behaviours in community and secure settings (Michael C. Clark, Jay Rider, Frank Caparulo and Mark Steege).

11. Treatment of anger and aggression (John L. Taylor, Raymond W. Novaco, Bruce T. Gillmer and Alison Robertson).

12. Treatment of fire-setting behaviour (John L. Taylor, Ian Thorne and Michael L. Slavkin).

13. Offenders with dual diagnosis (Anne H.W. Smith and Gregory O’Brien).

14. Female offenders or alleged offenders with developmental disabilities: a critical overview (Kathleen Kendall).

15. The relationship of offending behaviour and personality disorder in people with developmental disabilities (Andrew H. Reid, William R. Lindsay, Jacqueline Law and Peter Sturmey).


16. Staff support and development (Anthony F. Perini).

17. Research and development (Peter Sturmey, John L. Taylor and William R. Lindsay).


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First Chapter

Offenders with Developmental Disabilities

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-471-48635-3

Chapter One


William R. Lindsay, Peter Sturmey and John L. Taylor

This chapter reviews the natural history and theories about the development of offending behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities, and the extent to which current theories on the genesis of offending behaviour are relevant to this client group. If they are relevant, then what are the limits on this relevance and what other factors do we have to take into account because of intellectual disability itself? The first part of this chapter provides a summary of descriptive studies relating crime to intelligence and other potentially relevant factors. The second part investigates the various hypotheses about the development of offending behaviour such as genetic factors, familial influences, intelligence, environmental factors, peer group influences, the role of the media, developmental factors and the way in which criminal careers may develop in this client group. In the final section we provide an overview of this volume.


Intelligence and Offending


There is little doubt that intellectual disability was seen as a prime factor in criminalbehaviour in the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the early and mid-nineteenth century were periods of relative optimism about the educability of people with intellectual disability (Scheerenberger, 1983), Social Darwinism and the eugenics movement were major influences in the development of scientific and popular thought at the time as well as in the subsequent development of public policy.

In 1889 Kerlin put forward the view that vice was not the work of the devil, but "the result of physical infirmity" and that physical infirmity is inherited (Trent, 1994, p. 87). He went on to write that inability to perceive moral sense was like inability to perceive colour in the colour-blind and "the absence can not be supplied by education" (Trent, 1994, p. 87). Hence, Kerlin's views directly challenged the optimism of earlier authorities that viewed people with developmental disabilities as full of potential and remediable by suitable education. For the next 50 years Kerlin's views were dominant. Terman (1911), an author of one of the earliest IQ tests, wrote that "There is no investigator who denies the fearful role of mental deficiency in the production of vice, crime and delinquency ... Not all criminals are feeble-minded but all feeble-minded are at least potential criminals" (p. 11). This quotation gives us an idea of the extent to which individuals who were lower functioning were considered a menace to society. Goddard (1921), author of The Criminal Imbecile, concluded that "probably from 25% to 50% of the people in our prisons are mentally defective and incapable of managing their affairs with ordinary prudence" (p. 7). Sutherland (1937) also concluded that the 50% of delinquents in prisons were feeble-minded.

Scheerenberger's (1983) History of Mental Retardation is replete with the historical association between intelligence and crime in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. At that time intellectual disabilities came to be viewed as part of a broader degeneracy, which included moral degeneracy, child abuse and neglect, criminality, drunkenness and sexual promiscuity. In Gallager's (1999) cameo of race politics and eugenics in Vermont in the early part of the twentieth century, we see that part of the menace of the feeble-minded in Vermont was their menace to respectable, White property owners, whose property might be stolen. Family trees of degenerate families duly noted the criminals, sex offenders and those incarcerated in correctional institutions alongside the blind, alcoholic, still-born and feeble-minded (Gallager, 1999, pp. 88-9, 181). Thus, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries criminal behaviour and intellectual disability were firmly linked in the ideology of the menace of the feeble-minded (Trent, 1994). Whereas institutionalisation, segregation of the sexes and community placement contingent upon sterilisation could be effective in protecting the Anglo-Saxon gene pool, other strategies were also implemented. This was continued during the Nazi era, when Jews, Romanies, people with intellectual disabilities or psychiatric disorders, homosexuals and persistent criminals were gassed or taken out and shot, in order to preserve the Aryan gene pool (Burleigh & Wippermann, 1991).

Research findings

In a review of the role of intelligence in the development of delinquency, Hirschi and Hindelang (1977) concluded that the relationship between intelligence and delinquency was at least as strong as the relation of either class or race and delinquency. They also noted that in the 1960s and 70s this relationship was denied by many influential writers, in spite of the ample available scientific evidence. In a study of 9,242 juvenile males, Reiss and Rhodes (1961) found that the rate of referral to juvenile court for those boys with the lowest IQ was slightly over twice that found for individuals with the highest IQ. In addition, they also found that IQ and occupational status varied at around the same rate with delinquency. Hirschi (1969), in an examination of over 3,600 boys in California, found that IQ was a stronger predictor of delinquency than the education of the father or parental occupation. West and Farrington (1973) reported the results of a longitudinal study of 411 boys conducted over a period of 10 years. By comparing those boys with an IQ of over 110 with those who had an IQ of less than 90, they found that quarter of the former group had a police record while half of the latter group had such a record. Further analysis revealed that one in 50 of those with an IQ over 110 recorded recidivism while one in five with an IQ of less than 90 reoffended. West and Farrington concluded that "low IQ was a significant precursor of delinquency to much the same extent as other major factors" (pp. 84-5). This relationship has now been found repeatedly by a range of authors (e.g. Goodman, Simonoff & Stevenson, 1995; Kirkegaard-Sorenson & Mednick, 1977; Rutter, Tizard & Whitmore, 1970; West & Farrington, 1973).

The relationship between IQ and offending is a robust one. However, the main criticism of the hypothesis that there is a causal relationship between IQ and delinquency in that the data are correlational. Thus, some other variable or variables other than IQ per se may account for the relationship. For example, the relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and delinquency or social deprivation and delinquency may account for the correlation between IQ and delinquency (Simons, 1978).

Two carefully controlled studies, (Moffit, Caspi, Dickson, Silva & Stanton, 1996; Moffitt, Gabrielli, Mednick & Schulsinger, 1991) investigated the relationship between SES, IQ, parental disorder and delinquency. Parental disorder included schizophrenia, character disorder, psychopathic disorder and normal controls. In their first study of 129 males they found that offender status was significantly predicted by IQ independent of parental disorder or SES. In their second study, data from 4,552 males available from Danish birth cohort information were used (Schaie, 1965). They again found a small but significant correlation between IQ and delinquency, independent of the effect of SES.

In their prospective study of boys living in London, West and Farrington (1973) reported that 9% of multiple offenders had an IQ of 100 or greater while 28% of recidivistic delinquents scored below an IQ of 90. Therefore, the relationship between IQ and delinquency would seem to hold fairly firmly even while other major variables are controlled within the statistical design.

While a relationship between IQ and delinquency has been established, most of these studies are looking at predictive value or differences between groups at one or two standard deviations around the mean. It would be irresponsible in this volume not to consider the much smaller amount of available evidence investigating these relationships around and greater than two standard deviations below the mean. Chapter 2 by Tony Holland looks at this relationship in more detail, as do some other chapters throughout the book. However, it is interesting to note some more specific studies at this point. McCord and McCord (1959) evaluated an interesting early intervention study with 650 underprivileged boys in Massachusetts. The Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study was set up "to prevent delinquency and to develop stable elements in the characters of children" (McCord & McCord, 1959, p. 2). The boys were divided into 325 matched pairs and assigned to treatment and control conditions. There was a relationship between IQ and rates of conviction in that for the treatment group, 44% of those in the IQ band 81-90 had a conviction while 26% of those with an IQ above 110 had a conviction. However, the 10% of individuals in the lowest IQ group (less than 80) had an intermediate rate of conviction at 35%, that is lower than that recorded in the IQ band 81-90. Furthermore, of those in the higher IQ band who were convicted of crime, none went to a penal institution while the highest percentage going to a penal institution, 19%, were in the lowest IQ band. The results were similar in the control group, with 50% in the IQ band 81-90 convicted of crime and 25% in the IQ band less than 80 convicted (although numbers in the latter cohort were small).

Maughan, Pickles, Hagell, Rutter and Yule (1996) and Rutter et al. (1997) followed up children who had shown severe reading difficulties at school. It might be considered that a significant proportion of the children with severe reading difficulties had developmental and intellectual disabilities. Surprisingly, they found that the rate of adult crime among boys who had had significant reading difficulties was slightly lower than the rate of adult crime in the general population comparison group. This finding still held true independently of psychopathology or social functioning. Similarly, antisocial behaviour in childhood was less likely to persist into adult life when it was accompanied by reading difficulties. Therefore, while the relationship between IQ and delinquency seems firmly established, there is some evidence that this relationship may not hold when considering individuals 1.5 or more standard deviations below the mean.

The intellectual differences between high and low delinquency samples tends to be greater for verbal than non-verbal IQ (Hirschi & Hindelang, 1977). Kandel et al. (1988) identified high- and low-risk samples of men, based on accepted risk predictors for criminality. A cohort of individuals whose father had had at least one prison sentence had received 5.6 times greater a number of prison sentences themselves (39.1% versus 7%). These individuals were then further split into four groups: high risk with prison sentence, high risk with no record, low risk with prison sentence, and low risk with no record. For both high- and low-risk groups, individuals with a criminal record showed lower IQ scores than those with no record. The high-risk subjects with no criminal record had considerably higher verbal, performance and full-scale IQs. IQ differences between criminal and non-criminal cohorts were seen only in the high-risk group. There was no IQ difference between the low-risk criminal conviction (N = 20) and the low-risk no registration (N = 24) subjects.


The crude relationship between IQ and delinquency is robust. However, several caveats apply. First, when other factors such as SES are controlled for, the relationship is considerably attenuated. Second, because many studies have focused on the IQ range of 80-120 the relationship to intellectual disability can only be inferred in many studies. Indeed, the few available studies suggested that when the sample was extended to IQs below 80, there was no simple linear relationship to IQ. Third, no studies investigated criminal behaviour in people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities. Few people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities commit many criminal acts since acts of crime assume mens rea; if they do enter into the justice system they are presumably diverted to the mental health, intellectual disability or forensic mental health service system via the courts. Nevertheless, in their review of US penal institutions, Brown and Courtless (1971) reported that 1.6% of inmates had an IQ score below 50 and, remarkably, a tiny proportion of individuals fell below an IQ of 25.

A final limit on these data is that they have focused on delinquency rather than white-collar, corporate or government crime. Thus, the relationship between IQ and delinquency, focusing on limited kinds of readily observable criminal acts, may obscure any relationship between IQ and criminal behaviour more widely defined.

Social and economic factors and crime

That delinquency and crime are related to social circumstances and SES is undeniable. Schuerman and Kobrin (1986) reviewed demographic changes in areas of Los Angeles County. They compared areas which had moved from low crime rates to high crime rates over 20 years, those with gradually increasing crime rates over 20 years, and those with stable high crime rates over the same time period. They concluded that certain sociological factors were associated with increasing crime rates. These included multiple dwelling and rent or occupied housing, a rising proportion of minority ethnic groups, unattached individuals and single-parent families, and greater deprivation as measured by a range of SES variables. Correspondingly, McDonald (1986) reported the opposite trend in areas of emerging gentrification. McDonald (1986) studied 14 such areas in Boston, New York and San Francisco into which middle class individuals were settling. Analysis of crime rates between 1970 and 1984 were less persuasive than the data from Schuerman and Kobrin (1986), but did tend to suggest that crime rates might be falling over this period. Given that most individuals with intellectual disability (ID) are unemployed, unattached and come from lower SES groups, it is a reasonable hypothesis that these factors may have an influence on this population.

Race and crime

The associations between race and crime have interested criminologists for decades. The main comparisons have generally been with White, western society males. Crime rates in Japan have historically been recorded as relatively low, and rates among Black youths relatively high (Wilson & Herrnstein, 1985).


Excerpted from Offenders with Developmental Disabilities Copyright © 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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