Intellectual functioning and aggression

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1987 Jan;52(1):232-40. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.52.1.232.


In a 22-year study, data were collected on aggressiveness and intellectual functioning in more than 600 subjects, their parents, and their children. Both aggression and intellectual functioning are reasonably stable in a subject's lifetime and perpetuate themselves across generations and within marriage pairs. Aggression in childhood was shown to interfere with the development of intellectual functioning and to be predictive of poorer intellectual achievement as an adult. Early IQ was related to early subject aggression but did not predict changes in aggression after age 8. On the other hand, differences between early IQ and intellectual achievement in middle adulthood were predictable from early aggressive behavior. A dual-process model was offered to explain the relation between intellectual functioning and aggressive behavior. We hypothesized that low intelligence makes the learning of aggressive responses more likely at an early age, and this aggressive behavior makes continued intellectual development more difficult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Human Development
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Social Class