3 Brit. J. Delinq. 173 (1952-1953)
The Borderline Defective Delinquent

handle is hein.journals/brijode3 and id is 181 raw text is: THE 'BORDERLINE DEFECTIVE' DELINQUENT1
The close connection of mental defect with crime led Healy to maintain that
mental deficiency forms the largest single cause of delinquency. This
opinion appears to be extreme. At the Portman Clinic (I.S.T.D.) it has
been found that of the delinquent cases sent for diagnosis or treatment, on
the average 2 per cent. are mentally defective and 4 per cent. borderline
It is indeed remarkable that the association of mental backwardness with
delinquency is not more frequent than it is. The borderline defective has
difficulties to cope with almost from the start. His low intellectual capacity
makes it hard for him to grasp meanings. This slowness is too often looked
upon as the stupidity of the obstinate or as just intentionally being tiresome.
Contrasting him with other children of his age, his parents and relatives are
apt to push and prod him with a vigour and persistence which do not give
him the time he needs to mature the various stages of his development.
Unable to understand the meaning of much that he hears, he drifts along as
best he can, more often than not in a state of hopeless confusion. Frequently
punished for an incapacity for which he is not responsible, it is not surprising
that the difference between right and wrong is apt to remain for him an
insoluble problem. In the world as it is, whatever he does he is always
behind. So why try? Here is fertile soil for the development, of delinquency.
Far from bringing improvement, time makes matters worse. Life
becomes harder as he grows older. His more intelligent contemporaries find
him boring and dull, so that he has to find companionship where he may.
Often kindly but with little mind of his own, he too frequently becomes the
easy prey and suggestible tool of more intelligent minds with criminal ten-
dencies. Later, when they find him too stupid to be safe as a companion
in crime, loneliness and unhappiness are added to feelings of inferiority, and
so the last shred of self-respect begins to give way.
On the whole, borderline defectives suffer far more than the lower
grades. With sufficient intelligence to realize how far they are left behind,
they feel they belong nowhere and to nobody. Deprived of a social back-
' From a paper read before the Mental Deficiency Section of the Royal-Medico
Psychological Association at 11, Chandos Street, London, W.C.1, on November 15th, 1951.
2 1 wish to express my indebtedness to the medical and lay staff of the Portman Clinic
for their unfailing co-operation in helping me to obtain clinical material and in other
ways assisting me in compiling this paper.

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