The level of developmental pathology among children is alarming to parents, policy makers and mental health experts. Medical authorities have estimated that 10 to 20 of every 1,000 (1 percent to 2 percent) infants born in the United States will have clinically significant mental retardation, two per 1,000 (0.2 percent) will have cerebral palsy and 1.9 per 1,000 (0.19 percent) will have severe hearing or visual impairment (Gortmaker, Walker, Weitzman and Sobol 1990; American Psychiatric Association 1994). A far greater number of children are afflicted with less severe dysfunctions, including attention deficits (about 10 percent) and learning disabilities (4 percent to 7.5 percent, depending on definition) (Gortmaker, et al. 1990; American Psychiatric Association 1994).
Severe and persistent mental illness in adulthood (predominantly schizophrenia) affects two to four persons per 1,000 per year, depending on diagnostic criteria, and the country in which the diagnosis is applied (Ruggeri, Leese, Thornicroft, Bisoffi and Tansella 2000). Estimates of the lifetime risk of mental illness and behavior disorders include especially large numbers of individuals. For example, the lifetime risk of a major depressive disorder in adult community samples is about 5 percent to 9 percent for men, and 10 percent to 25 percent for women (American Psychiatric Association 1994).
Educational records provide additional data on the prevalence of disability in the population. During the 2003-2004 school year 6,634,000 children were designated as disabled and received services in federally supported programs (http://nces.ed. gov/programs/digest). This was 13.7 percent of the enrollment in public schools. As this figure does not include those in private educational systems, the number of disabled students is higher, although these data are unknown. Further, the special education enrollment is rapidly increasing. From the 1990-1991 to the 2003-2004 school year there was a 38.5 percent increase in special education enrollment.
KeywordsCerebral Palsy Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prenatal Period Nervous System Damage Persistent Mental Illness
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