Why do those with a low IQ act so immature?

By David Joel Miller.

Shouldn’t people with low IQ’s act more maturely?

I.Q. Tester

I.Q. Tester (Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass)

Morning Question #27

That immaturity is actually a part of how intelligence was first measured. People’s chronological age does not always match their mental age.

The original idea was to measure their mental age and compare that to their chronological age. People who though like a younger person were given a low IQ score.

IQ tests have been refined over the years and we know that IQ is in fact made up of many different factors. Some people are good at math and some are better with words. Since a lot of IQ tests consist of words on paper they are biased in favor of those who know more words.

Someone who has lived ten years should be in the 5th grade and should act like they were 10. But if they have a low IQ score, they score mentally like a 5-year-old and they should know what a 5-year-old knows, they probably will act like a 5-year-old also.

People also have what is called an emotional intelligence. Someone can be 30, score highly on an IQ test and still act and feel emotionally like they are a teen. We all know people who act like that.

Someone who has not yet learned the lessons necessary to think like a 30-year-old would also presumably act less mature emotionally than their chronological age.

There are standard development tasks that are customarily learned at a particular age. Failure to learn those tasks will affect the person’s mental and emotional behavior until learned.

Moral reasoning is also learned over time. We do not expect preschoolers to understand the difference between right and wrong in the same way adults should understand these differences. Unfortunately, right now it is hard to tell some politicians from preschoolers but that is another subject.

One place we do great damage to children and those with a low IQ is to expect them to act and behave like a much older person. It is easy to see that a small child cannot carry a heavy object until they grow up. It is harder to understand that a child can’t understand how to be more mature until they, in fact, become more mature and that takes time.

Yelling at a child to grow up and act their age does not, in fact, make them older or more emotionally mature. Pressuring young children to do things beyond their ability can do long-term damage to their emotions. We may need to set high expectations sometimes to motivate people but we should not punish them when our expectations turn out to be unrealistic.

The rub comes in most severely in the mentally challenged. Most of us can see that a child of five cannot play NFL football; they are not physically mature enough. But when it comes to the developmentally delayed it is harder to understand that while their bodies may look mature their understanding is still immature.

We should expect an emotionally immature person to act in an immature way and not upset ourselves when they can’t meet our unrealistic expectations.

So what do you think? Any comments on emotional maturity?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


5 thoughts on “Why do those with a low IQ act so immature?

  1. Pingback: Part 1- Immaturity and Maturity « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

  2. Pingback: Part 1- Immaturity and Maturity (turning away from evil) « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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