Mental Retardation: Its Social Context and Social Consequences

By Bernard Farber | Go to book overview

7
The Family

This chapter will discuss the immediate social matrix in which most mentally retarded persons live -- the family. However, the significance of family life for the severely mentally retarded is considerably different from that for the educable, mildly retarded. Unless the severely retarded person is institutionalized, he will undoubtedly spend all of his life with his parents and siblings. The mildly retarded individual, on the other hand, may eventually marry and have children. Moreover, the characteristics of families of the severely retarded differ from those of families of mildly retarded individuals. For these reasons, this chapter will deal separately with the family lives of severely and mildly retarded persons.1


Families of the Severely Mentally Retarded

Families with severely mentally retarded children exist in all segments of society. Since social factors do not appear to play an important role in the prevalence of the severely retarded, these families constitute an unselected cross-section of kinds of family life prior to the birth and diagnosis of the retarded child. The major concern for investigation is determining the retarded child's impact on family relationships.

This chapter discusses the consequences of labeling the child as retarded for families in different social contexts. Two kinds of consequences will be considered. First, the chapter will focus upon the

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