Masters Thesis

The social construction of mild mental retardation: a characterological response to poverty

The relationship between poverty and mental retardation as a social pathology is demonstrated in this thesis. It attempts to explore the relationship be-tween growing up in chronic poverty and the development of a "characterological response". Pertinent literature on mental retardation brings together the findings of different theorists that address the relationship between the culture of poverty and what is termed "mild", "borderline", or "familial mental retardation". Retardation may be a "symptom" of a predictable response to particular environmental circumstances. The adaption to the experience of growing up in cultural poverty may develop into dysfunction or maladjustment that would be identified as mental retardation. The intense and prolonged frustration that evolves from the experience of chronic poverty may create a particular characterological response. This response may become institutionalized through cultural norms and transmitted across generations through such things as communication and parenting styles.