All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Fred J Biasini

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2011

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Individuals with disabilities, and with intellectual disabilities/mental retardation (ID/MR) in particular, have a long history of being overlooked in many different areas, including research, service provision, health care, education, and treatment. Recent research has suggested that the attitudes that are held by individuals in the general population toward individuals with ID/MR has not changed significantly over the past 50 years, both nationally and internationally. Attitudes can be powerful. Social psychologists have documented how the perception or attitude that an individual holds about another can lead to confirmation of that perception, even if it is not valid, by means of the self-fulfilling prophecy or behavioral confirmation. This study attempted to evaluate a measure designed to assess the perceptions or attitudes that people hold toward individuals with ID/MR and their potential for independence. Participants were asked to complete two short surveys, the Community Living Attitudes Scale - Mental Retardation and a newly developed Independence Scale, in order to provide a range of perceptions. Participants included undergraduate students enrolled in a large urban campus setting, direct care staff working with individuals with ID/MR, and a community sample. Principal components analysis revealed three separate factors or components for the Independence Scale, similar to previous results suggesting the presence of difference subscales based on qualitative analyses. Factors from this analysis were labeled Adaptive, Personal, and Privacy. Overall, there were no differences revealed between the three groups on the Independence Scale. On the previously established CLAS-MR scale, some group differences were revealed on two of the subscales. Notably, participants who worked in direct care settings appeared to describe individuals with ID/MR as less in need of sheltering or protection, and individuals from the community appeared to describe individuals with ID/MR as more similar to themselves when compared to psychology undergraduates or the direct care staff. While in the recent past there have been a number of studies published which have evaluated attitudes toward individuals with ID/MR in other countries (e.g., Japan, Australia), there has been little recent research in the United States. Measures which specifically evaluate the attitudes held toward independence for individuals with ID/MR are lacking in the literature. Thus, this study attempted to contribute to filling in the void in the research literature and providing a description of the perceptions held by a range of participants about independence for individuals with ID/MR.

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