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<<Biblioteca Digital del Portal<<La Educación<<La Educación (120) I, 1995 <<Artículo
La Educación
Número: (120) I
Año: 1995

The Deaf Community

The citations of oppression pose a paradox when deaf adults’ mental health is considered. Freud and our common wisdom has taught us that the experiences of childhood strongly influence our adult lives. It would seem to follow that an unhappy childhood increases vulnerability to mental illness. In keeping with that predicted outcome, studies have shown that as many as 30 percent of deaf students are judged by their teachers to be emotionally disturbed or to show behavioral problems—a far higher rate than among regular school children, judged on the same rating scales. The astonishingly high proportion of teacher referrals for these conditions has led one writer to characterize deaf students as victims of an “emotional epidemic.”

What is more, the research literature is unanimous that deaf students have poor self-concepts relative to their normally hearing peers. In study after study, their self-assessments average far lower than those of comparable students with normal hearing. Thus, from the research on deaf children and adolescents is would seem that the grounds are laid for disproportionately high rates of mental illness among deaf adults.

Now the paradox: The rates of mental illness among perlingually deaf adults—the deaf persons most likely to have suffered as children—are the same as for the general population. That latter point is based on research from the British Isles, a four-year study of deaf people in New York State, and a nationwide survey of mental hospitals in the U.S. These research findings refute the pessimistic Freudian generalization, but they leave a nagging question: Why does this oppressed minority not have higher rates of mental illness? After all, deaf children frequently have emotionally difficult childhoods. Should not those unhappy early experiences taint their adulthood?

The resolution to the paradox—the key that unlocks the enigma—is the often overlooked support most deaf people get from the Deaf Community. It is a remarkable antidote to the vicissitudes of childhood.