Verbal Ability and Persistent Offending: A Race-Specific Test of Moffitt’s Theory
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Theoretical questions linger over the applicability of the verbal ability model to African-Americans and the social control theory hypothesis that educational failure mediates the effect of verbal ability on offending patterns. Accordingly, this paper investigates whether verbal ability distinguishes between offending groups within the context of Moffitt's developmental taxonomy. Questions are addressed with longitudinal data spanning childhood through young-adulthood from an ongoing national panel, and multinomial and hierarchical Poisson models (overdispersed). In multinomial models, low verbal ability predicts membership in a life-course-persistent-oriented group relative to an adolescent-limited-oriented group. Hierarchical models indicate that verbal ability is associated with arrest outcomes among White and African-American subjects, with effects consistently operating through educational attainment (high school dropout). The results support Moffitt's hypothesis that verbal deficits distinguish adolescent-limited- and life-course-persistent-oriented groups within race, as well as the social control model of verbal ability.
Causes and Prevention of Crime