References to people in the communications of female and male youths with mental retardation

Krista M. Wilkinson, Nora A. Murphy

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3 Scopus citations


Gender-related differences have consistently been reported in the language of adults and children with no disabilities. One well-replicated finding is that females discuss people and relationships more often than do males, particularly in conversations with other females. These stylistic variations in language are considered to have implications for the adaptive functioning of language users, most particularly females. Although studied thus far only in nondisabled individuals, such issues of language style use may be of equal or greater concern for those with mental retardation. How does a cognitive impairment intensify or reduce gender-linked language styles and their effects? Language transcripts were obtained from eight male and eight female participants with retardation, interacting separately with one male and one female adult partner. Half of the participants used speech as their primary mode of communication: the others relied on vocalization, gesture, or augmented modes. Participants using speech showed gender-linked language patterns similar to nondisabled individuals, with females discussing people significantly more often than males. Females using nonspeech modes, in contrast, showed a severe reduction in person-referencing that was not accountable by their expressive speech limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-224
Number of pages24
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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