Ellis' Handbook of Mental Deficiency, Psychological Theory and Research

Ellis' Handbook of Mental Deficiency, Psychological Theory and Research

Ellis' Handbook of Mental Deficiency, Psychological Theory and Research

Ellis' Handbook of Mental Deficiency, Psychological Theory and Research


In the 16 years since the publication of the second edition of this volume, psychological theory and research in mental retardation has continued to expand and extend scientific, theoretical, and clinical understanding of this most complex and challenging human condition. Explicit effort has been made to translate theory and research into useful and efficacious assessment, intervention, prevention, and policy actions. This third edition provides an opportunity to critique major conceptual developments and empirical research in an effort to stimulate further behavioral research of practical, social importance.

The Handbook presents work by prominent contributors to a major scientific endeavor that has grown dramatically during the last three decades. The challenge for each author was to identify important theoretical and empirical issues, provide a critical, selective review of exemplary research, and discuss the questions that remain unanswered in each area. In short, the goal for this third edition was to consolidate the knowledge gained during the past 30 years and to present a blueprint for future research in mental retardation, the broader field of learning disabilities, and other developmental disorders such as autism.

Providing totally different coverage and direction from the previous edition, this text fills a crucial instructional need in graduate courses related to the psychology of mental retardation. With its emphasis on psychological research and theory, it offers an important alternative to many available texts that primarily emphasize the application of research.


More than 15 years separate the publication of this, the third edition of the Handbook, from the second published in 1979. That interval was witness to enormous reformation of research strategies, theoretical developments, scope and range of problems and issues investigated, technological innovation, and cross-disciplinary inquiry. An entire generation of researchers was intellectually born and bred during that interval. They not only brought a renewed vitality to the broad research enterprise, but they have substantively contributed to the changing theoretical tenor through introduction of novel conceptual approaches, incorporation of recent technological advances, and integration into their research of facts, data, and theories from diverse orientations.

Measured in sheer volume alone, research into the constellation of phenomena that together comprise the field of mental retardation has undergone a veritable revolution. In the early 1960s, under the leadership of President John F. Kennedy, major policy decisions were made at the federal level to mount a major and sustained research effort to unravel the mysteries of mental retardation, to apply the power of science to finding causes and treatments, and to enhance life's quality for children exposed to risks and who suffered the effects.

The field was until then in an embryonic stage -- disorganized, and devalued both as a scientific undertaking and as a major public priority initiative. In some respects the turnabout was sudden and dramatic as a cascade of resources, concerns, advocacy, and, most importantly, the investment of careers of many talented researchers who devoted themselves to a common cause. In review of this history of almost four decades and in consideration of how barren the cache of scientific certainties was then, the growth of knowledge has been startling. We now have at our disposal methods and discoveries that could have only have been dreamt of then. The lives of many have been spared and made more full as a consequence. But this is not to say that the road to understanding has been smooth, certain, or without its jarring disappointments and disagreements, not only in our science but in our pervasively changing socialization. Perhaps in the heady atmosphere of the times, the complexities of the problems associated with mental retardation were not sufficiently appreciated and, in retrospect, one of the most significant discoveries has been a fuller and sobering realization of just how vastly complex and daunting is that multivariate constellation of biological, social, educational, psychological, and political characteristics that together form the backdrop against which we pursue our research. Many uncertainties are persistent, and sometimes it seems that each fresh insight is but a fresh frustration. Take, for example, excitement over the discovery of the metabolic perturba-

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