Standard Grant: Evolving Narratives of Developmental Disabilities in Postwar Clinical Professions

Project: Research project

Project Details


Since the 1950s there have been two models of developmental disabilities. The medical models present disability as an undesirable condition, located in an individual body, and in need of treatment or prevention. The social models understand disability as resulting from societal choices and assumptions about how ?normal? humans should interact with their environment. The investigators will examine how social model narratives entered the medical community and influenced professional conceptions and characterizations of developmental disabilities. This project will explore how often-conflicting social and medical perspectives of disability have been bridged in the past, and what can be learned from instances of successful outreach to improve future care. The investigators will present results from this project in medical and disability advocacy forums, and will develop service-learning opportunities for undergraduate students. Undergraduate students will also be involved in archival research for this project, and encouraged to develop their own projects based on these materials. This work will be of interest to genetic counselors, clinical psychologists, pediatric physicians, educators, policy makers and parents.

This project will advance understandings of evolving perspectives on the cause, acceptability, and management of developmental disabilities in the medical community after 1950. The investigators will perform qualitative analysis of archival resources, published literature, and interviews to examine evolving medical community narratives about developmental disabilities, and to determine the extent and scope of hybridization between social and medical model perspectives in various clinical fields. After 1950, many clinicians were exposed to, and some adopted, narratives of developmental disabilities, which focused on unique traits, rather than ?tragic? outcomes. This project will examine how and why new narratives of developmental disabilities entered the medical community, how clinical professionals responded to alternative viewpoints, and the role of some clinicians in promoting the broader adoption of social model perspectives. The investigators will explore how professionals in genetic counseling, clinical psychology, and pediatrics, responded to social model perspectives of developmental disabilities. This project will extend STS frameworks for understanding and analyzing interactions among professional communities with differing levels of power and prestige as they renegotiate longstanding disciplinary categories and approaches to service.

Effective start/end date3/1/172/28/22


  • National Science Foundation: $132,027.00


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