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Group Differences in Adaptive Behavior: Evidence from the USA

Harrison Kane and Nawithara Foythong


As a psychoeducational construct, adaptive behavior refers to an individual’s independent display of behaviors associated with meeting his/her daily personal and social needs, including behaviors expected in domestic and social environments. Since the 1960’s, adaptive behavior has been perceived as a viable alternative to standardized intelligence tests, especially in multicultural contexts. The present study compares the adaptive behavior of Whites and Blacks, using three large normative samples drawn from the standardization of the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System-II. The ABAS-II is an ideal subject for the study of race differences, as it provides a psychometrically solid measure of the spectrum of adaptive behaviors. Findings of multivariate analyses indicate that the adaptive behaviors of Blacks and Whites are largely similar among young children, from infancy to 5 years of age. After the age of 5 years, race differences in adaptive behavior emerge and become more pronounced with age. Appreciable race differences are noted for children, adolescents, and adults. Across the span of adaptive behaviors measured by the ABAS-II, most differences favor Whites. Possible mechanisms for these observed differences are offered, as well as suggestions for future investigation.

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