The clashing nature of rebelliousness: Nontraditional attitudes and counter-normative behaviors show divergent associations with intelligence

Joshua D. Isen, Steven G. Ludeke, Joshua D. Foster, Matt K. McGue, William G. Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Prior literature indicates that nontraditional attitudes are linked to higher intelligence. However, such attitudes in adolescence often accompany counter-normative, delinquent-type behaviors, which are themselves negatively linked with intelligence. This points to the possibility of suppression in the relationship between intelligence and nontraditional attitudes. Method: We analyzed a large community sample of 17 year olds (N = 3330) with data on intelligence, nontraditional attitudes, and a diverse collection of self- and teacher-reported counter-normative behaviors. Developmental questions for these relationships were examined through cross-sectional comparisons between the adolescents and their parents as well as longitudinal analysis of the adolescent sample across emerging adulthood. Results: Youth who endorsed nontraditional attitudes had lower school grades, earlier age at first sex, heavier substance use, and were perceived as more oppositional by their teachers. Each of these problem behaviors was inversely related to intelligence. Accordingly, the positive correlation between nontraditional attitudes and intelligence was much weaker in adolescents as compared to their middle-aged parents. Longitudinal analyses revealed that the association between nontraditional attitudes and intelligence strengthens in early adulthood. Conclusions: Associations between intelligence and sociopolitical attitudes can be obscured even by seemingly distal psychological characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-540
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this manuscript was supported by the following grants from the National Institutes of Health: DA 013240, DA 05147, and AA 09367.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • adolescence
  • delinquency
  • intelligence
  • sociopolitical attitudes
  • traditionalism

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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