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A History of Disability, Pathology and Adoption in America, 1945-present
Sandra Sufian, University of Illinois at Chicago
Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FT-59540-12
Compounded Anxieties: Adoptive Family Building and the Role of Disability in Adoption IQ Studies (Article)
Title: Compounded Anxieties: Adoptive Family Building and the Role of Disability in Adoption IQ Studies
Author: Sandy Sufian
Abstract: This article highlights and historically situates three seminal studies on the IQ of adopted children from the 1920s to the late 1940s. An analysis of the studies demonstrates the relationship between adoption research, child placement, and disability during this period. That relationship was defined by attempts to ascertain the extent to which intelligence was hereditary not only for scientific theory but also for the purpose of placing children with the “best” permanent families. If the hereditary nature of intelligence and feeblemindedness could be definitively discerned by child scientists, then adoption agencies could avoid the unintentional placement of children with such disability in their family histories.
I suggest that both researchers’ analysis of IQ in adoption research and agency use of IQ testing were intertwined with intense anxieties about intellectual disability and what it meant for adoptive family-building. Agencies utilized mental testing in order to manage the risk of disability in placement and to reassure applicants that their constructed families would be on par with presumed able-bodied, natural ones. Looking at disability in adoption IQ studies and practice provides insight into the shifting notions of disability and family, their constructed and contingent nature, and the practical consequences of their conceptualization.
Access Model: article not yet published; submitted for publication August 2012
Periodical Title: Submitted to Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. NOT YET PUBLISHED; UNDER REVIEW