Will Your Youngster Turn to Crime?

After looking at the lives of 1,000 boys these world-famed | criminologists believe they know the answer—and can tell | before it’s too late. They also know that the sweetest infant is a thief at heart and a model student may be a delinquent

JUNE CALLWOOD September 15 1954

Will Your Youngster Turn to Crime?

After looking at the lives of 1,000 boys these world-famed | criminologists believe they know the answer—and can tell | before it’s too late. They also know that the sweetest infant is a thief at heart and a model student may be a delinquent

JUNE CALLWOOD September 15 1954

Will Your Youngster Turn to Crime?

After looking at the lives of 1,000 boys these world-famed | criminologists believe they know the answer—and can tell | before it’s too late. They also know that the sweetest infant is a thief at heart and a model student may be a delinquent


ONE OF the newest and most astonishing developments in the field of crime prevention is a prediction test that aims at foretelling if a six-year-old boy will grow up to be a criminal.

This test, far removed from the realm of crystal balls, tea cups and the signs of the zodiac, is the work of one of the world’s foremost teams of criminologists, Professor Sheldon Glueck and his wife, Dr. Eleanor T. Glueck, both on the staff of the Harvard Law School.

The Gluecks base their prediction test on a study they made of one thousand young boys, half of them juvenile delinquents and the other half nonfdelinquents. This research, conducted over a ten.-year period, wound up with specific proof of the simple and now almost universally accepted premise that conditions in the home are the major factors in determining how a child will get along with society and the law.

Because it represents some of the most intense research ever made into the character of a juvenile delinquent, the Gluecks’ ambitious project has commanded enormous respect and interest all over the world. Its usefulness is being tested in an experiment in two New York City schools, tor the past two years the New York City Youth Board has been applying the Glueck test to first-graders and their careers are being followed closely to determine if the predictions are accurate. In these two schooLs, situated in slum areas with a high incidence of juvenile delinquency, the test indicates that approximately 115 boys out of a total of 350 so far tested are earmarked for crime.

If the Youth Board’s experiment demonstrates that the Glueck prediction test is 90 percent accurate, as many authorities suspect it is, a new era in the war against crime may be on the way. Instead of the long, expensive and often tragic program of capture, trial and imprisonment, criminology could shift its emphasis to the cheaper and less painful patterns of prevention—to the

readjustment of the delinquency-prone before they M actually become delinquents. Instead of flint-faced ¡¡ teen-agers with ten years of bitterness and hatred M behind them, authorities could deal with malleable M moppets who haven’t yet shed their baby teeth.

At first glance the Glueck test appears to be a grotesque oversimplification. It is concerned entirely with the relationship of the boy to father and mother and the closeness of the family group. But facts are facts—it was in this area that the Gluecks found clear-cut differences between delinquents and non-delinquents. The Gluecks believe, from their research, that any boy in any financial circumstance is in grave danger of becoming a criminal if he scores high on their test. “A boy getting a $100-a-day allowance can still have a father and mother who hate him,” the Gluecks point out.

The stature of the Glueck prediction test rests largely on the stature of the Gluecks themselves. In the field of criminology, the Gluecks are giants. Profesar Glueck, who teaches criminal law and criminology at Harvard Law School, and his wife, a research associate in criminology at Harvard, have spent 29 years studying the development of criminals. Through grants from their university and such foundations as Ford, the Commonwealth Fund and others, they have published jointly ten volumes, each of which was described in its time as “pioneering.”

The Gluecks became social researchers almost by accident. Prof. Sheldon Glueck happened to remark during a seminar in 1925 that no one had ever checked on the effectiveness of various penal institutions in curing crime. “Those claims of high success of reformatories in reforming might not be supported by the facts,” he observed. “No business could be run without an audit.”

The comment impressed Dr. Richard Clarke Cabot, then professor of social ethics at Harvard. He obtained a $3,000

Continued on page 101

The Glueck Test for Delinquency

Here is the simple five-factor test the Gluecks of Harvard devised to indicate a child’s chances of becoming a criminal. Scores on the five factors, when added, give the child’s total score. Table at bottom supplies a prediction for each group of scores.

WARNING: Although the test is based on percentages worked out in a study of real delinquents, it can be accurately used only by specially trained people.

1. Discipline of Boy by Father

Overstrict or erratic................ 73

Lax ............................ 60

Firm but kindly ................... 9

Definition: Overstrict, demands obedience

through fear. Erratic, varies between strictness and laxity. Lax, father is indifferent. Firm but kindly, discipline is based on sound reason which boy understands.

2. Supervision of Boy by Mother

Unsuitable ....................... 83

Fair ............................ 57

Suitable ......................... ^0

Definition: Unsuitable, mother is careless in supervision or boy is cared for by irresponsible child or adult. Fair, mother gives partial supervision. Suitable, mother keeps watch on boy and provides for his leisure in clubs or playgrounds. (If she is ill or out of home a good deal, there is a responsible adult in charge.)

3. Affection of Father for Boy

Indifferent or hostile............... 75

Warm (including overprotective)...... 34

Definition: Indifferent, father doesn’t pay much attention to boy. Hostile, father rejects boy. Warm, father is sympathetic, kind, even in some cases overprotective.

4. Affection of Mother for Boy

Indifferent or hostile............... 86

Warm (including overprotective) ...... 43

Definition: Same as in 3.

5. Cohesiveness of Family

Unintegrated ..................... 97

Some elements of cohesion.......... 61

Cohesive ........................ 21

Definition: Unintegrated, self-interest of members exceeds group interest. Some elements of cohesion, family not intact but some characteristics of cohesive family. Cohesive, members of family co-operate, have group interests and pride in home.


(total of scores for all categories)


Under 200 ................. 8 percent

200-249 .................. 37 percent

249-299 .................. 63 percent

300 and over............... 89 percent

“It’s better to know they’re bad before they go wrong”

Will Your Youngster Turn to Crime?


grant, two part-time assistants and a small room containing a desk and two chairs and instructed the Gluecks to go ahead and make an audit.

“We undertook to find out what had happened to five hundred men discharged from a reformatory,” Mrs. Glueck explains. “You can imagine our problem: The FBI couldn’t find some of those men. They changed their names, moved to South America or Italy, joined the crew of some tramp steamer, put on weight and grew mustaches. But we found all but twentyfive of them. Then we had to gain their confidence to find out if they had reformed or not.”

The Gluecks discovered that in a five-year period after their discharge from prison 78 percent of the inmates had returned to crime, a rate of actual failure almost equal to the rate of successful rehabilitation claimed by most prisons. The findings of the Gluecks were published in 1930 under the title Five Hundred Criminal Careers and came as a severe shock to many complacent penologists.

An Ohio State University professor recently polled psychiatrists, sociologists and psychologists to list the books they felt had contributed most to their knowledge of delinquent and criminal behavior. Five Hundred Criminal Careers led the poll and the Gluecks had two other volumes among the top ten.

They Went Back to Crime

The Gluecks followed their first joint effort with Five Hundred Delinquent Women, a research requested by the head of a women’s reformatory. It presented even more of a sleuthing problem: some of the women had changed husbands several times, slipping into a new identity and hair dye each time. One former inmate had become the leading clubwoman in a small town.

In 1934, going backwards in search of a stage in criminal development where reform was more hopeful, the Gluecks published One Thousand Juvenile Delinquents. In a five-year period after they had appeared in Juvenile Court 88 percent of the boys had returned to crime, a rate of backsliding even higher than that of adult criminals. Later research led the Gluecks to the conclusion that society’s attack on crime after it had begun was a poor solution.

They began to wonder why so many children in slum areas, living in appalling conditions of filth and deprivation, failed to become juvenile delinquents. What deterred these children from the life of crime some of their playmates preferred? The Gluecks reasoned that if they could study a huge group of slum children, half juvenile delinquents and the other half clearly not juvenile delinquents, perhaps they could identify some differences between the groups and trap that elusive beast, the cause of delinquency.

In 1940 they began a research of 1,000 teen-agers living in Boston slums. Half were juvenile delinquents already committed to reform schools and the other half were non-delinquents. The Gluecks decided to choose the boys from depressed areas to remove slum environment as a factor in their choice or refusal of a life of crime. Other factors were also kept constant in both sets of boys to give more meaning to the contrasts the Gluecks hoped to discover. All the boys, for example, were

matched in pairs by age, intelligence quotient and racial origin.

A staff of 17 worked for ten years to compare the thousand boys in 402 separate ways: Doctors, under the

Gluecks’ supervision, examined the boys’ health, anthropologists studied their body structure, Rorschach analysts pored over their descriptions of ink blots, psychiatrists interviewed them, social workers talked to their parents, studied their report cards and searched the records for information about their grandparents. When it was over the Gluecks assimilated the reports and discovered what conditions and what mental attitudes were found more often in delinquents than in nondelinquents. Some highly regarded theories about juvenile delinquents were revealed to be myths.

For instance, many experts believed that membership in a gang was a primary cause of juvenile delinquency. The Gluecks discovered that ninetenths of the delinquents show their earliest anti-social symptoms before the age of eleven but boys don’t join gangs until they are in their teens. Another popular belief was that most delinquents are underdeveloped, sickly neurotics; the Gluecks found exactly the opposite condition.

The “core type” juvenile delinquent, they found, is strongly built with wide shoulders, a tapering torso and muscular body. Until he is twelve he is smaller than boys his own age but he has a growth spurt early in his teens and becomes as tall as or taller than his friends. His health is as good as a non-delinquent’s, though he was more restless as a small child.

He is vivacious, impulsive, destructive and sadistic, showing less selfcontrol than non-delinquents. He is hostile, defiant, nonsubmissive to authority, has a strong thirst for power and a desire to be looked after without too much effort on his part. He is less realistic, less practical, less conscientious, less aesthetic, more sensual, more egocentric and more stubborn than a non-delinquent.

The delinquent also dislikes school more than the non-delinquent, plays truant far more often and, in spite of his equal intelligence, does poorly academically. By the time he is nine the delinquent is a teacher’s problem. He is inattentive, lies, arrives late, destroys school property, is restless and lazy.

The delinquent’s first acts of mischief, the Gluecks found, are stealing rides, hopping trucks, sneaking into theatres without paying, setting fires, running away from home and keeping late hours. He also shows a precocious interest in gambling, smoking and drinking.

The delinquent goes to the movies three or four times a week to satisfy his thirst for excitement; plays in distant neighborhoods, on street corners and vacant lots, waterfronts, poolrooms and railroad yards. He is rarely at home in his spare time and is not interested in supervised recreational facilities that might be available in his neighborhood. He prefers delinquents for company to non-delinquents.

The parents of a typical delinquent are unhappily married or not married at all and the home was broken by desertion, separation, divorce or death while the child was very young. If the father or a foster father is in the home, he is hostile to the boy. Sometimes there is little discipline over him or he is severely and painfully beaten. His mother is indifferent or contemptuous of him; he fights with his brothers and sisters.

A great many of the qualities that distinguish a juvenile delinquent are part of the normal development of almost every boy. Most boys have a

period of aggression and resistance to authority, or try to sneak into movies, or pilfer candy bars from store counters, or hate school and pay little attention to the teacher. At some period of their childhood most boys destroy property or seem to enjoy hurting animals and other children. During these periods the neighbors hint darkly that the boy is certain reform-school material, his teacher is constantly irritated and his parents waver between a sense of outrage and fear. The probability is that the boy is suffering from nothing more disfiguring than the em-

barrassing difficulties of growing pains.

Psychological studies of emotional development in human beings suggest an explanation. Ina sense, all humans are born criminals—that is, socially not adjusted. A six-month-old baby, if he were physically capable, would steal without conscience, kill when peeved and destroy with vicious abandon. Under the pressure of his environment and his parents’ discipline and example, the child learns to curb these urges in the first ten years of life. But if these pressures are drastically distorted from normal the child cannot learn properly

to live in society. Those who fail and land in courts are called juvenile delinquents. But the big question is whether children who show early signs of misbehavior will or will not become true delinquents. The Gluecks feel that only half the importance of their prediction test is in detecting potential delinquents; the other half of its use is in determining which boys who appear to be wildly out of control are actually only going through a normal stage in their development.

The Gluecks’ study of the thousand Boston boys revealed three basic areas

of distinct contrast between the delinquent group and the non-delinquent group. One area was a comparison of the Rorschach analyses and another was a comparison of the reports from psychiatric interviews. The third area, the one with the easiest application, was in the home relations of the hoys and their parents; certain attitudes appeared much more commonly in the homes of the delinquents than in those of non-delinquents. The Gluecks then arranged these attitudes and scored them on a percentage basis.

For example, 73 percent of the boys whose fathers were overstrict or erratic in their discipline turned out to be delinquent, compared to only nine percent of those whose discipline was firm but kindly; so the Gleucks used these percentages as scores for each case, according to the actual discipline the boy received. Again, 97 percent of the boys who came from unintegrated families turned out to be delinquents, compared to 21 percent who came from cohesive families. So it was too with three other items in the prediction table—supervision of boy by mother, affection of father for boy, affection of mother for boy. The Gleucks demonstrated that the probabilities of a boy becoming delinquent were much higher if he had in his background history the conditions proven to be most malevolent.

The fantastic implications of the simple five-factor test (see chart) have i stirred penologists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists and law enforcement officers to wrathful argument. While they await the outcome of the testing in New York schools, several of these authorities have plunged into print with doubts and denials. Some of ; the criticism centres on the point that the Gleucks formed their test after = studying chiefly white and Roman Catholic boys in Boston. The results, they claim, cannot have equal application to boys in other cities of different racial backgrounds.

This criticism was weakened when j the Jewish Board of Guardians in New York applied the Gleucks’ test to one hundred Jewish juvenile delinquents I already in an institution. This experiment was intended to determine if the prediction test would have been accurate if it had been used when the boys were six. Ninety-one of the delinquents, it was discovered, would have tested as potential delinquents at six years of age.

Another argument against the worth of the prediction test has been that it is based on recollections of teen-aged boys about their early childhood and on parents’ recollections about their treatment of half-grown sons years earlier. The Gluecks’ reply is that the statistics on social conditions were obtained only in small part from interviews with parents and sons; most of the information was found in the files of social agencies which had been dealing with the families for many years.

The discussion will go on a few years more. The worth of the prediction table—for which the Gluecks themselves make no claims as yet—cannot be proven until the 350 schoolboys being tested in New York are old enough to prove themselves clearly delinquents or non-delinquents. The New York City Youth Board, established seven years ago with an annual budget of two million dollars to combat juvenile delinquency, has made the validation of the prediction test one of its projects. For the past two years the Youth Board has been applying the test to six-year-olds entering Grade One in two schools in the Bronx slums that have the highest incidence of juvenile delinquency in the world.

Some of the best-behaved boys in the

classroom have tested strongly as potential delinquents. On the other hand, the tests indicated that some of the most obstreperous will probably live within the law.

The cases of two small boys, Tommy and Pete, will illustrate this. Tommy, a quiet shy six-year-old, had a test that showed him to be among the most likely delinquents in the group. The teacher, who is never informed of the results of the test for fear of prejudicing her treatment of the youngsters, reported that he was a model pupil. His mother, when approached with the suggestion that Tommy needed help, was indignant. “I’ve got six children!” she exclaimed, “and he’s the best behaved of the lot !”

During the following year Tommy began to be a sullen truant and showed signs of incipient sadism. His mother, beginning to be concerned, consented to a Rorschach test on Tommy. The Rorschach is the famed inkblot test believed to be the best method to diagnose personality weaknesses. Tommy was revealed to be a seriously disturbed child. Pete, on the other hand, had settled down and his conduct was no more than exuberant. Agency reports on his early years showed he had been a sheltered child; he had come out of his shell with a bang, tested the authority of his parents and teacher and found it firm. He was giving no more trouble.

To date about a third of the boys tested have shown themselves to be potential criminals. This is an exact reflection of the known ratio of juvenile delinquents in the older grades of the same schools. In these districts one out of every three boys over twelve is a juvenile delinquent.

The Youth Board and the Gluecks have concentrated exclusively on boy offenders in their experiments, chiefly because eighty percent of all juvenile delinquents are boys. The Jewish Board of Guardians is now experimenting with applying the test to a group of girls. While the survey is far from complete it was reported recently that the test appears to be only slightly less effective on girls than on boys.

Hostile To His Son

Outside of the Gluecks themselves, members on the staff of the Youth Board are probably best qualified to use the prediction test. The hitch in zealous parents trying to use it on their own and the neighbors’ children is that they’re not likely to score accurately. Even experienced scorers of the Youth Board are occasionally wrong.

Gathering information for the test is not the formidable task it would be for an untrained person. Social workers gathering data begin the interview by saying to the mother “I’d like to talk to you about Johnny.” The interview lasts from an hour and a half to two hours, during which the social worker does little talking. He starts by asking questions that won’t cause the mother to become antagonistic: “What kind of a boy is Johnny?”, “What does he like to do?”, “Does he belong to any clubs, play baseball?”

The interviewer never asks bluntly “Is your husband hostile to his son?” He may ask questions like “What happens on the boy’s birthday?”, “Does his father help him with his homework?”, “What happens to the boy when he does something he shouldn’t do?”, “Do he and his father spend much time together?” The network of evidence builds up until the social worker is satisfied that the category has been identified.

No notes are taken in the home because social workers have discovered that mothers are uneasy when they see their family life going into a notebook.

Once out of the neighborhood, the interviewer writes down everything he can remember about the home conditions and turns his report in to be scored.

A part of the Youth Board’s experiment in New York is to give preventive treatment to exactly half the boys who test as potential delinquents. The other half, representing approximately 55 boys, will be untreated to act as a control group.

If the New York City Youth Board’s experiment should prove the prediction tables accurate, Mrs. Glueck plans to

prepare a n.. .. for all communities

considering using the device. The Gluecks would like to see every school test every first-grade boy and direct all those showing a high potentiality for delinquency to a community clinic of psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists and social workers who can attempt to divert the youngster from a life of crime.

Meanwhile the Gluecks are working farther back on the problem of delinquency. They believe senior students in grade schools should be given some training in the proper home environ-

ment necessary to the mental health of children. The Gluecks would like to see industries and unions gather younger workers together for instruction on the same theme. Pre-natal clinics, they add, could include some information about the proper care of a baby’s emotions along with information about his diaper rash.

“Look at what kind of a person the delinquent is,” suggests Dr. Glueck. “He’s not all bad, by any means. He’s fearless, adventurous, aggressive, energetic, strong just the sort of citizen we want. We shouldn’t lose him.” if