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Temperament and Behavior Disorders in Mentally Retarded Children

Stella Chess, MD; Sam Korn, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1970;23(2):122-130. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1970.01750020026004.
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THE prevention and treatment of behavior disorders in mentally retarded children are of special concern for two reasons. First, these children are at great risk for the development of emotional disturbances. Most investigators report a higher proportion of behavior difficulties in retadates than in intellectually normal children.1-4 Second, a disproportionate number of retarded youngsters are placed in institutions because of behavior problems that hinder management at home. The decision to institutionalize a retarded child often hinges on our ability to ameliorate his disturbance. It is therefore essential to explore every possible approach that may increase the retarded child's chances for positive adaptation.

Studies of intellectually normal children have demonstrated that temperament, the individual's characteristic manner of response, plays a significant part in the etiology of behavior disorders.5 A specific cluster of temperamental attributes, characterizing the "difficult child," has been shown to constitute vulnerability for stressful interaction with


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