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Old 06-04-2004, 10:06 AM
Surreal Surreal is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 2,120
Legally, Can A Mentally Retarded 18-Year-Old Provide Sexual Consent?

Mental retardation is typically diagnosed when tests of intellectual functioning show that the person's 'mental age' is less than 70% of their chronological age (i.e., their IQ is below 70).

Furthermore, in court cases the chronological age of a mentally retarded defendant is often a significant mitigating factor in his or her sentencing. Physically they may be adults, but mentally they could often still be considered juveniles.

If an 18-year-old mentally retarded person with an IQ of 70 (mental age = 0.70 x 18 y.o. = 12.6 y.o.) provided someone with sexual consent, would it be legal to have sex with them even though, mentally, they are equivalent to a 12.6-year-old? When the laws regarding the minimum age required to give sexual consent are applied, are they based upon calendar age or mental age??

Old 06-04-2004, 02:01 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Charleston, SC
Posts: 5,820
I don't think you can take an IQ as being a percentage of chronological age. IQ is usually fixed by the time one reaches 18. So one with an IQ of 70 at age as the mental prowess of a 12-year old, but when he reaches 30 he suddenly has the mental prowess of a 21-year old?

In the second place, in spite of what the courts may have said, according to DSM-4, "Impairments in adaptive functining, rather than a low IQ, are usually the presenting symptoms in individuals with Mental Retardation." The subaverage general intellectual functioning must be "accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and safety (Criterion B). The onset must occur before 18 years (Criterion C)."

In the third place, I don't think you have to confirm a person's IQ before having sex. 50-70 is defined as "mild mental retardation." If the person has a more severe mental retardation, that would be apparent, and IMHO a different problem. But the difference between 70 and 75? In your example, if the person had an average IQ of 80, his or her mental age would be less than 15. Does one not only have to verify a person's chronological age and the IQ before having sex? To ask the question is to answer it. If the person is so mentally deficient as not to adequately consent, that is a different situation.
Old 06-04-2004, 10:41 PM
Excalibre Excalibre is offline
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7,585
IQ only used to compare mental age with real age, and only in theory anyway (obviously). It's not even defined that way anymore, and for good reason, as the terms are pretty meaningless. Comparing at 18-year-old with a 70 IQ with a 12-year-old is just not valid - they won't function the same way, mentally. The retarded are not "permanent children" in that sense.

At any rate, different states have different consent laws, but I imagine that taking advantage of someone's handicap that way would get you in trouble in most places. Certainly if the person couldn't understand what they were consenting to, they couldn't really render consent, and if it seemed someone was being taken advantage of, I suspect most prosecutors would go for it. OTOH, I don't know what the situation is when two people who are each considered not able to understand the consequences of what they're doing end up having sex - but people with mild mental retardation can and do successfully raise families sometimes.
Old 06-04-2004, 11:01 PM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 12,509
Well, FWIW, my cousin works for a social service agency that assists mentally retarded parents, usually mothers. Her organization teaches them life and parenting skills, often from scratch.

She has some interesting tales from the trenches, to be sure. Some of her charges send their nine year old kids, with normal IQ's, to the grocery store because they're far more up to the task than Mom is.

In many, if not most, cases, these women are raising their kids as single parents. Many, many times, Mom collects child support from a father with a normal IQ. So it happens, to be sure.


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