Findings: Learning Problems and Learning Disability

For the most part, scholars who study learning disabilities have not concerned themselves with delinquency or violence. We only point to these studies because learning disabilities are likely to be associated with academic achievement and the other school problems that we are studying. In our sample, 7 studies with violent outcomes looked at the role of learning problems and 5 of those report relationships in the predicted direction, 2 with preponderantly statistically significant findings. The findings, then, lean in the direction of a correlation with violence but are not especially compelling. The strongest findings come from Resnick et al. (2004) who found that participants who reported learning problems were more likely to report violent behavior in the large Add Health sample, controlling for factors such as victimization, alcohol use, emotional distress, family connectedness, and, importantly, repeated grade and GPA. Unfortunately, the authors do not describe their measure of learning problems.

Only one study reported the association between learning problems and nonviolent-only offending. The findings in that study suggest that LD is associated with nonviolent antisocial behavior, but the association is not statistically significant.

There were 4 studies that compared measures of learning between violent and nonviolent offenders. All of the comparisons reported across these studies indicated that violent offenders had more trouble learning than nonviolent offenders, and 2 studies (50%) reported a PoC that was also statistically significant (Syverson & Romney, 1985; Yeomans, 1996).While the evidence so far definitely leans in the direction of an association between learning problems and violence, and in support of a greater presence of LD in violent compared to nonviolent offenders, more analyses of large data sets employing multivariate models would be needed to draw firm conclusions.

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