I thank Robert Hodapp, PhD, for his very helpful comments on a previous version of this article, as well as Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD, and Elizabeth Roof, MA, for their enthusiastic responses to a draft of the manuscript. I appreciate all that I have learned about mental retardation from affected individuals and their families, and from Donald Cohen, MD, Ed Zigler, PhD, James Leckman, MD, and Beth Rosner, PhD. I am very grateful for learning about positive psychology from a class taught by Marty Seligman.
Toward a Positive Psychology of Mental Retardation
Article first published online: 24 MAR 2010
2006 American Orthopsychiatric Association
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Volume 76, Issue 2, pages 185–193, April 2006
How to Cite
Dykens, E. M. (2006), Toward a Positive Psychology of Mental Retardation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76: 185–193. doi: 10.1037/0002-94220.127.116.11
This work was partly supported by National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development Grants P30HD15052–24 and R01HD135681–06.
- Issue published online: 24 MAR 2010
- Article first published online: 24 MAR 2010
- Accepted January 12, 2004
Researchers and practitioners alike have long focused on the external life conditions, adaptive behavior, and inclusion of persons with mental retardation. Using breakthroughs in positive psychology, this article proposes a new research agenda focused on the positive, internal states of those with mental retardation. It shows how major movements in the mental retardation field—quality of life, dual diagnosis, personality motivation, and families—have succeeded in some arenas but failed to address happiness and well-being. Examples of happiness—of positive emotions, flow, strengths, and virtues—are offered in people with genetic causes of mental retardation. Complexities related to etiology, measurement, flow, and a meaningful life are described, as is the vital role that mental retardation can play in the emerging science of positive psychology.