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Smart school bullies less likely to become criminals

04 September 2012 British Psychological Society (BPS)

Having a high IQ and coming from a small family could mean school bullies are less likely to become criminals.

This is one of the findings of the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, led by Professor David Farrington and Dr Maria Ttofi, being presented at the British Psychological Society's Developmental Section Conference today, Thursday 6 September, at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

Starting in 1961/62 the study assessed 411 eight year old London boys and followed them up until 48 years of age. Information was collected via face-to-face interviews with the boys and their parents (ages 8-14), peer ratings (ages 8 &10) and teacher ratings (ages 8-14). 93 per cent of the participants were interviewed again at 48 years of age.
Dr Maria Ttofi said: "We also checked if they had received any criminal and violent convictions from the age of 15-50 inclusive."

The results showed that 18 per cent of those identified as bullies at age 14 had been convicted for a violent offence and 39 per cent for a criminal offence.

Dr Maria Ttofi explained: "An interesting aspect of the findings was the contrast between bullies with high and low IQ's. Those with a high IQ were less likely to be convicted of a violent criminal offense (5 per cent) compared to those with low IQs (26 per cent). We also found that those who came from a small family, with a good income and attending a good school were much less likely to go on to commit crimes.

Another interesting finding was that factors that appeared to prevent these boys going on to violent offending tended to be related to the individual (e.g. IQ) whilst factors that appeared to prevent criminal offending tended to be family and social factors. The main implication of this is that different types of interventions may be differentially effective in interrupting the path from school bullying to later crime or violence."

The full conference programme can be found via

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