Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Integrated Perspective of Evolving Intrapsychic and Person-Environment Functions: Implications for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Integrated Perspective of Evolving Intrapsychic and Person-Environment Functions: Implications for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals

Article excerpt

The authors review and integrate certain diverse theories to explain and suggest appropriate interventions for difficulties in socioemotional functioning experienced by many deaf persons. These diverse perspectives include a hierarchical circular systems approach, psychosocial stage theory, social learning theory, and representational models, or evolving expectancies of others. These perspectives, which can facilitate understanding of social behaviors and development and lead to improved interventions, provide background for a 3-level model proposed in the article. The model focuses on the relationship between the deaf person and the proximal social environment. The model's first level takes into account intrapsychic processes such as self-concept; the second highlights reciprocal interactions between the person and the social environment. The third describes the resulting memories and expectancies that develop and evolve and that influence the person's previous intrapsychic thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. These, in turn, affect social interactions, in a recurrent, spiraling fashion. This hierarchical model can be used as a framework for concurrent or sequential interventions with Deaf people.

Language and communication considerations are particularly important for persons with hearing loss, and the impact of delays in effective language acquisition on educational and social interactions is well documented (Berry, 1992; Davis, Elfenbein, Schum, & Bundler, 1986; Liben, 1978; Musselman, MacKay, Trehub, & Eagle, 1996; Rodda & Grove, 1987; Webster, 1986; Weisel & Bar-Lev, 1992). Although many deaf individuals make a satisfactory adaptation to their deafness, others experience socioemotional difficulties. For instance, the prevalence rates range from 10% to 50% for behavioral disturbance in deaf children (Hindley, 1997; van Eldik, 1994). The socioemotional risks to a deaf child with hearing parents include problems with selfesteem and social cognition (Beck, 1988; Koester, Brooks, & Karkowski, 1998). Diverse theories have been proposed to facilitate the understanding and remediation of the difficulties in social interactions and mental health problems faced by many deaf persons. For example, Erikson's psychosocial stage theory (1963, 1968) has been proffered to explain how unresolved conflicts weaken ego functioning for many deaf people. In contrast, Bandura's social learning theory (1977, 1997) has been suggested as a basis for understanding deaf children's behaviors as well as improving their social skills.

Our intent in the present article is to integrate certain of these predominant theories, which focus on different aspects of social behavior and adaptation, into a more comprehensive model to explain the socioemotional difficulties experienced by deaf individuals. Such an integrated approach may promote flexible and inclusive strategies for intervention. Before turning our attention to the theories, we first elaborate some of the difficulties faced by deaf persons.

Socioemotional Difficulties of Deaf Individuals

In an analysis of mental health problems of deaf children, Rodda and Grove (1987) concluded that effective communication between parent and child is essential for favorable adjustment. The lack of responsiveness shown by a deaf child, however, may in turn change the parent's behavior, and unfavorable patterns of social exchange can sometimes develop. "Any breakdown, for whatever reason, can affect the child's personality development in a damaging way and result in alienation from family and society at large" (p. 307). When communication breaks down, a decrease in reciprocal feedback typically results. Thus, some deaf individuals experience a sense of social isolation and a decrease in feedback about the effects of their own behavior on others.

A significant number of parents feel that their deaf children are socially withdrawn (Denmark, 1994; Denmark et al. …

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