Gender differences in long-term postschool outcomes for youth with mild mental retardation, learning disabilities and no disabilities: myth or reality?
In the past decade major efforts have been undertaken to examine the postschool life of youth who were served in special education. The follow-up study has been the primary method used by investigators seeking answers to questions regarding the immediate and long-term outcomes of youth with disabilities. The findings from these studies have provided the profession with certain general outcome data including the claim that gender is a primary factor related to outcome. While these findings are commonly accepted within the field of special education there are several troubling issues which open some of our commonly held beliefs to doubt. These include combining data across disability categories, combining data on graduates who have been out of school for unequal periods of time, ignoring the issue of missing data, combining data from different informants, and the use of non-equivalent data bases to make comparisons to a population with no disabilities.The purpose of this study was to address the question of gender differences by analyzing a data set from the longitudinal follow-up project entitled The First Decade After School with attention to these methodological concerns. The sample comprised 48 graduates with mild mental retardation and 289 graduates with learning disabilities from the 1990 and 1985 graduation classes in three school districts in Washington State. A cohort of 610 youth without disabilities were randomly selected from the same districts and graduation years. Interviews were conducted at 1 and 2 years postgraduation for the 1990 graduates, and 6 and 7 years postgraduation for the 1985 graduates.Contrary to the literature, the data revealed few significant differences between males and females, but numerous differences by disability classification. Overall, the findings suggest that (1) youth with mild mental retardation fare poorly compared to youth with learning disabilities or no disabilities; (2) youth with learning disabilities fail to attend postsecondary school at rates comparable to youth without disabilities; and, (3) females with learning disabilities parent at higher rates than females without disabilities.Included are recommendations for practitioners and future research.
- Education - Seattle