Mental Retardation: The Developmental-Difference Controversy

Mental Retardation: The Developmental-Difference Controversy

Mental Retardation: The Developmental-Difference Controversy

Mental Retardation: The Developmental-Difference Controversy

Excerpt

There is a central issue and unifying theme of this book: the developmental- difference controversy in the area of mental retardation. Stated most simply, this controversy centers around the question of whether the behavior of those retarded persons with no evidence of central nervous system dysfunction is best understood by those principles in developmental psychology that have been found to be generally applicable in explaining the behavior and development of nonretarded persons, or whether it is necessary to invoke specific differences over and above a generally lower rate and asymptote of cognitive development. This controversy is of importance because at least 75% of all those identified as retarded have no evidence of organic brain dysfunction.

Retarded persons with no evidence of organic brain dysfunction are referred to by the American Association on Mental Deficiency as suffering from "retardation due to psychosocial disadvantage." The older and more widely used term is "cultural-familial retardation." We use this latter term throughout the book. We prefer this term in that this form of retardation is best understood as involving a combination of environmental (cultural) and genetic (familial) causes. Thus, the term cultural-familial seems to us to be a more precise diagnosis than "retardation due to psychosocial disadvantage." According to the developmental theorist, the familially retarded person is viewed as a normal individual in the sense that he falls within the normal distribution of intelligence dictated by the gene pool. He or she is normal in exactly the same sense that a person who is in the lower third percentile of height is considered to be normal. This person will be called "short" but will not be seen as being abnormal. As a consequence of the developmental theorists' view of a familially retarded person as a normal individual, these theorists predict that the performance of this retarded person . . .

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