Mental Retardation: Its Social Context and Social Consequences

By Bernard Farber | Go to book overview

5
Cultural Variations and Mental Retardation

Various investigators have indicated general community and family characteristics that are correlated with intellectual functioning. They have cited low socioeconomic status, disorganized family life, isolation, a crowded home, and lack of stimulation as factors in inadequate functioning.1 When these investigators have found mental retardation among persons living in conditions such as those listed, they have labeled these people as having suffered from cultural deprivation, social or cultural disadvantage, exogenous mental retardation, or environmental-psychological deprivation. This chapter describes a conceptual scheme indicating the relationship between cultural characteristics and mental retardation. Because of the importance generally assigned to intelligence tests in the assessment of mental retardation, cultural variations in intellectual functioning will be described in terms of aptitudes ordinarily tested.

Psychologists and educators have often criticized intelligence tests for their lack of conceptual adequacy.2 Yet most intelligence tests were not developed to investigate theoretical problems. They were created to enable school officials to distinguish between potentially successful and unsuccessful students. Since they were invented to solve an institutional problem, their continued use must be explained in terms of their functioning as a mechanism designed to affect the

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