Thursday, January 9, 2014

Attitudes Toward Persons with Intellectual Disability

Mental/intellectual disability is the least preferred disability as compared to other disability type such as physical or sensory disabilities (Parashar et al, 2008). Generally, people lack an appreciation of the range of capabilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities. This resulted to low expectations of how much people with this disability can do and achieve.  For instance, the Special Olympics Organization conducted a multinational study of attitudes towards persons with intellectual disabilities covering 10 countries (Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Nigeria, Russia and USA) in 2003. According to the results, the world still believes that individuals with intellectual disabilities should work and learn in separate settings, apart from people without disabilities. Regardless of their national background, many participants seemed to struggle to believe that persons with intellectual disabilities are capable of self-determined life and insisted on separated systems in regard to employment, education and overall living arrangements (Special Olympics Organization, 2003).

 A study of public attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities involved 4, 057 Chinese-speaking male and female adults, ages 18-60, living in Hongkong between 1994 and 2002. The results indicated that half (50%) of the respondents believed that people with mental disabilities are violent or capable of disturbing others. Approximately one-third (30% to 40%) of the respondents believed that people with mental disability are likely to have an appearance upsetting to others (Lau, 2002).
Stanlland (2009) noted that 8 out of 10 of his respondents would be very or fairly uncomfortable being with a club or team with person with intellectual disabilities. Employers in Macedonia would not employ them because that would not be productive (Stankoda and Trajkovski, 2010). Persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities are also the least favored and preferred as close friend, colleague, partner, and neighbor (Choi and Lam, 2011). Pre-service educators reported the least positive attitudes toward these individuals while Jordanian teachers and administrator least accept them as students (Barr and Brachita, 2008; Alghazo, 2002). In contrast with the above stated studies, Glavrimis (2012) noted positive attitudes toward persons with intellectual/developmental disability among his respondents.
Many studies attempted to show attitudinal differences based on variables like sex, age and educational level. The studies indicated varying results as to whether significant difference exists between these variables. The differences among results are perhaps attributed to differences in culture and different roles. For example, no significant relationship was found between sex and attitudes toward persons with intellectual disabilities (Yazbeck et al, 2004). Hampton and Xiao (2007) specified that males and females showed no significant difference in their attitudes towards persons with disabilities among Chinese students but there was among American students. American female students were described more positive toward person with disabilities than males. Conversely, Lau and Cheung (1999) reported more discriminatory attitudes toward people with intellectual disability among females than males.
In terms of age, younger people generally exhibit more positive attitudes than older ones. Older people have the propensity to express negative attitudes than younger ones because they grew up in an era of hospitalization or institutionalization where persons with intellectual disabilities were placed thus, were less visible in the community. The lower discrimination among younger people reveals their openness and cognitive efficiency to process new information (Yazbeck et al, 2004; Lau and Cheung, 1999).  Furthermore, studies generally agree that higher educational attainment contribute to more positive attitudes toward persons with intellectual disabilities (Yazbeck et al, 2004; Lau and Cheung, 1999; Choi and Lam, 2001). 

Attitudes toward persons with intellectual/developmental disability are influenced by previous contact (Choi and Lam, 2001). Hampton and Xiao (2001) specified that knowing a neighbor/acquaintance is related to positive attitudes among Chinese students while knowing a student, coworker or employee contributes to positive attitudes among American students. Yazbeck et. al (2004) also indicated that respondents reporting prior personal knowledge of or regular contact of a person with intellectual disabilities held more positive attitudes based on Mental Retardation Attitude Inventory (MRAI) scale, while no significant effect on the attitudes was found based on Scale of Attitudes Toward Mental Retardation and Eugenics-Revised (AMR&E-R) and the Community Living Attitudes Scale-Mental Retardation (CLAS-MR) scales. McManus et al (2010) however contend that greater quality of contact specifically predicted more positive attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities. The quality of previous interactions, not the number of interactions, defines whether or not an individual will have positive or negative attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities.
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