The effect of institutionalization on educable mental retardates' expectancy of failure

Payne, James Earl, 1939-
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It has been noted by many researchers that retarded youngsters, when placed in an unfamiliar situation and called upon to perform, have a higher than normal expectation that they will fail or perform poorly. It is assumed that this expectancy of failure results from the fact that retardates very often do fail, in comparison with normals, in various kinds of activities. Because actual failures are so common, perhaps even predominant, in their experience, retardates are led, by a process of generalization from their past experience, to expect failure in novel situations. This rationale has been substantiated by considerable research, which will be reviewed in Chapter II. What has apparently not yet been investigated is the effect, if any, that institutionalization has upon this high expectancy of failure among mildly retarded children. The failure which retarded children experience in the community must be viewed as resulting from their inability to behave or to perform in a way that is socially expected of children their age. That is, failure is obviously definable only relative to some accepted norm; when these norms are applied to retarded children, the resulting discrepancy is called failure. Within this framework, the institution may be viewed as an extra-normal oasis. The institution is ostensibly designed to provide for persons of less than normal ability; expectations for performance should be more appropriate to retardates' limitations; in such a situation, it seems safe to assume that the norms of the "outside world" either do not apply at all or are applied somewhat less rigorously. Thus, it follows that the institutionalized retardate should experience less failure than the equally retarded youngster in the community; indeed, if the institution's expectations are appropriate for its population, the mildly retarded residents should frequently experience some success. ... Based on this rationale, the hypothesis to be investigated in this study is that mildly retarded children, who manifest no gross sensory or physical dysfunction, will show a decrease in expectancy of failure following placement in an institution. Such a decrease should result from the reduction of actual failure experiences which institutionalization provides