Promoting Positive Attitudes Toward Individuals with Down

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Promoting Positive Attitudes Toward Individuals with Down

Transcript Of Promoting Positive Attitudes Toward Individuals with Down

Macalester College
[email protected] College
Psychology Honors Projects

Psychology Department

5-6-2014
Promoting Positive Attitudes Toward Individuals with Down Syndrome: The Relationship Between Indirect Contact Interventions and the Quality of Previous Contact
Nadine M. Rooney
Macalester College, [email protected]

Follow this and additional works at: http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/psychology_honors Part of the Psychology Commons
Recommended Citation
Rooney, Nadine M., "Promoting Positive Attitudes Toward Individuals with Down Syndrome: The Relationship Between Indirect Contact Interventions and the Quality of Previous Contact" (2014). Psychology Honors Projects. Paper 34. http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/psychology_honors/34
This Honors Project is brought to you for free and open access by the Psychology Department at [email protected] College. It has been accepted for inclusion in Psychology Honors Projects by an authorized administrator of [email protected] College. For more information, please contact [email protected]

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Promoting Positive Attitudes Toward Individuals with Down Syndrome: The Relationship Between Indirect Contact Interventions and the Quality of Previous Contact Nadine M. Rooney Macalester College

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Abstract The present study examined the influence of two indirect contact interventions (i.e., viewing a positive image of a man with DS and imagining a positive interaction with a man with DS) on nondisabled individuals’ attitudes toward those with DS. Additionally, this study explored the nature of the relationship between previous contact (i.e., quantity and quality) and the effectiveness of said interventions. In this two-part study, 87 participants reported their attitudes and liking toward individuals with DS, as well as the quantity and quality of previous contact. One week later, participants completed a lab session that involved viewing a picture of and/or imagining an interaction with a man with DS or neither, and reporting their attitudes and liking again. Data analyses revealed that neither of the indirect contact interventions was associated with more positive attitudes or liking. Quality of previous contact was significantly and positively associated with positive attitudes and liking toward individuals with DS. Analyses indicated mixed findings on quantity of previous contact. The effectiveness of the indirect contact interventions did not vary as a function of quality or quantity of previous contact with individuals with DS. These results have implications for further investigation and development of indirect contact interventions.

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Promoting Positive Attitudes Toward Individuals with Down Syndrome: The Relationship Between Indirect Contact Interventions and the Quality of Previous Contact
Historically, individuals with disabilities have been excluded from mainstream society, preventing them from interacting with nondisabled individuals and from fully participating in their communities (Shaw, Chan, & McMahon, 2012). However, recent efforts to promote the social integration and acceptance of individuals with disabilities have increased in a number of countries, including Australia, China, Chile, and the United States (Rice, 2009; Siperstein, Parker, Norins, & Widaman, 2011; Sirlopú et al., 2008; Wong, 2008; Yazbeck, McVilly, & Parmenter, 2004). For example, federal legislation in the United States (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA], Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEA]) has granted individuals with disabilities access to the same education, employment, housing, transportation, and other public accommodations that are available to nondisabled individuals (Rice, 2009). As a result of such legislation, social interaction between individuals with and without disabilities occurs more frequently. Greater interaction between these two groups has important implications for the well-being and social inclusion of individuals with disabilities in mainstream society.
Despite community integration efforts and advances in civil rights, barriers preventing the full acceptance of individuals with disabilities remain (Antonak & Livneh, 2000). Legislation requiring the physical integration of people with disabilities into mainstream society does not guarantee social integration or acceptance of these individuals (Cummins & Lau, 2003). In the 2009 Purposes and Findings of the ADA Amendments Act, the United States Congress found that “despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem” (as cited in Shaw et al., 2012,

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p. 82). For example, excluding people with disabilities from competitive employment denies these individuals their rights to equal opportunity, community participation, and self-sufficiency, and costs the United States billions of dollars in expenses related to dependency and nonproductivity (Shaw et al., 2012). In addition, social exclusion may result in negative selfevaluations, feelings of powerlessness, and frustration (McManus, Feyes, & Saucier, 2011), as well as a sense of alienation among people with disabilities (Cummins & Lau, 2003). Exclusion impacts the well-being of community members with and without disabilities, and it is necessary to address identified barriers to integration.
Negative attitudes toward individuals with disabilities (especially those with intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome) constitute a major barrier hindering the progress of integration (Lawson & Walls-Ingram, 2010; Yazbeck et al., 2004). Individuals with intellectual disabilities are aware of the differential treatment they receive when nondisabled individuals express negative attitudes through prejudice and discrimination (McManus et al., 2011). Marginalization, isolation, and victimization stemming from prejudice are likely to decrease the quality of life of individuals with intellectual disabilities (Parashar, Chan, & Leierer, 2008). Therefore, it is necessary to examine underlying variables associated with attitude change and identify effective means of promoting positive attitudes in order to better understand nondisabled individuals’ attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities. The current study aims to further understand and develop such interventions with the hopes of fostering the integration and acceptance of these individuals in mainstream society.
Antonak and Livneh (2000) define attitudes as “latent or inferred psychosocial processes” that are “acquired through experience” and expressed once “evoked by specific referents” (p. 212). An extensive literature has examined people’s attitudes, including a great deal of specific

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research on the nature of nondisabled individuals’ attitudes toward those with disabilities (Rice, 2009). The literature suggests that nondisabled individuals across various cultures tend to hold negative and/or ambivalent attitudes toward individuals with disabilities (Antonak & Livneh, 2000; Hazzard, 1983; Parashar et al., 2008; Vilchinsky, Findler, & Werner, 2010; Yuker, 1994). For example, Hazzard (1983) studied 367 elementary school students’ knowledge about and attitudes toward individuals with disabilities using the Children’s Knowledge about Handicapped Persons Scale. This researcher found that the children often stereotyped individuals with disabilities as “pathetic” and believed that they “deserve or desire pity” (p. 137). According to Parashar et al. (2008), “people with disabilities are repeatedly seen as . . . a burden on others” and are “socially and culturally devalued” (p. 230). Similarly, Vilchinsky et al. (2010) observed that nondisabled individuals experienced an initial negative emotional response when simply reading about an encounter with an individual with a disability. These researchers investigated whether personality traits, specifically attachment (one’s “global and stable orientation toward the self, others, and relationships”), of 404 Jewish Israeli participants were associated with negative attitudes toward individuals with disabilities (Vilchinsky et al., 2010, p. 299). Their results suggest that typically, nondisabled individuals react negatively toward individuals with disabilities, regardless of attachment orientation.
Although much literature examines attitudes toward individuals with disabilities in general, many researchers (e.g., Krajewsky & Flaherty, 2000; Lawson & Walls-Ingram, 2010; Parashar et al., 2008; Wong, 2008; Yuker, 1994) suggest that nondisabled individuals’ attitudes vary according to the type of disability, such as intellectual disabilities. According to Shaw et al. (2012), there appears to be a “hierarchy of preferences for types of disabilities” (p. 88), indicating that individuals with intellectual disabilities experience more stigma in comparison

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with those who have physical disabilities. The majority of the literature suggests that nondisabled individuals tend to hold more negative than positive attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities (e.g., Antonak & Harth, 1994; Yazbeck et al., 2004). Myers, Ager, Kerr, and Myles (1998) identified three types of attitudes that nondisabled individuals may hold toward individuals with intellectual disabilities: a “preparedness” to interact with these individuals; a “lack of awareness” about these individuals; and/or a “wariness or even hostility” toward the integration of individuals with intellectual disabilities (p. 97-98). According to Yazbeck et al. (2004), attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities tend to reflect the “wariness or hostility” described by Myers et al. (1998). For example, nondisabled individuals often view those with intellectual disabilities as taking advantage of the welfare system or as incapable of being suitable parents (Sirlopú et al., 2008; Yazbeck et al., 2004). Although most research finds that nondisabled individuals generally hold negative attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities, some discrepancies do exist within the literature.
For example, Rice (2009) examined the attitudes of 295 undergraduate students who were enrolled in either political science or special education courses and found that overall, participants reported relatively positive attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities on the Mental Retardation Attitude Inventory – Revised (MRAI-R). Similarly, Sirlopú et al. (2008) surveyed 120 Chilean students (ages 11-15) on their attitudes toward individuals with a specific intellectual disability, Down syndrome, and found that they held “relatively low levels of prejudice . . . [and] rather positive attitudes toward people with Down syndrome” (p. 2723). Although most of the research in this field does not appear to support these particular findings, there is evidence suggesting that some nondisabled individuals tend to endorse positive stereotypes about individuals with intellectual disabilities. For example, individuals with

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intellectual disabilities are often thought of as having “affectionate loving personalities” (Gilmore, 2006, p. 66). Although this particular stereotype may not seem negative, it is important to recognize that each individual has his or her own characteristics, and that having a disability does not mean these individuals share a common personality.
According to Nario-Redmond (2010), nondisabled people tend to “spread” assumptions about disability across “all aspects of a [disabled] person’s identity . . . [including] personality, motives, and behaviours” (p. 474), as well as erroneously overestimate relative group homogeneity among people with disabilities. Nondisabled individuals often exaggerate group homogeneity among individuals with Down syndrome (DS), in particular. For example, Gilmore (2006) observed a tendency for Australian community members to believe all individuals with DS “look the same and act the same,” which may be a result of focusing on the distinct physical characteristics associated with DS (p. 66). According to Hayes (1990), this “myth of uniformity” has no empirical support and disregards variation in physical appearance and personality amongst individuals with DS (as cited in Gilmore, 2006, p. 66).
Nario-Redmond (2010) also discusses how people with disabilities are commonly stereotyped as incompetent. Because DS causes intellectual impairments, nondisabled individuals are often surprised when individuals with this disability work in jobs that require adequate social and cognitive skills (Sirlopú et al., 2008). In the case of DS, stereotypes of incompetence and warmth (e.g., affectionate personality) combine and result in paternalistic attitudes. Nondisabled individuals may view those with DS as inferior due to paternalistic prejudice.
Further indication of nondisabled individuals’ negative attitudes toward DS is the elevated rate of selective abortion after prenatal testing. According to Lawson and Walls-Ingram

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(2010), the termination rate after a diagnosis of DS is over 90%; the willingness to abort appears to be significantly higher in cases of DS than in those of physical disability. Lawson and WallsIngram (2010) suggest that this selective termination is influenced by greater prejudice towards individuals with DS, as well as a societal view that parenting a child with DS is less rewarding than parenting a child with a physical disability (or no disability). The pervasiveness of negative attitudes and prejudice toward individuals with DS appears to be well-supported by the literature. Because the negative attitudes held by others may influence the overall quality of life (and even the chance at life) of individuals with DS, it is necessary to identify and expand interventions that promote a positive change in nondisabled individuals’ attitudes toward those with DS, as well as examine potential influences on the efficacy of such interventions. Indeed, researchers have dedicated extensive energy to developing effective means of attitude change in prejudiced individuals.
According to Dovidio, Eller, and Hewstone (2011), “intergroup contact has long been recognized as one of psychology’s most promising and effective strategies for improving intergroup relations and reducing bias and conflict” (p. 149). Over the past 50 years, researchers have conducted hundreds of studies to better understand the nature of intergroup contact and how it relates to attitude change (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). The link between intergroup contact and prejudice reduction was actually present in the literature by the mid-1930s (e.g., Zeligs & Hendrickson, 1933; as cited in Dovidio, Gaertner, & Kawakami, 2003). However, the majority of research on intergroup contact theory over the past half century is inspired by Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis on the interaction between racial and ethnic groups, described in his classic work, The Nature of Prejudice (Pettigrew, Christ, Wagner, & Stellmacher, 2007).

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Allport (1954) hypothesized that contact between an ingroup (e.g., White people) and outgroup (e.g., Black people) can reduce prejudice if four key conditions are met: equal group status within the situation, common goals, intergroup cooperation, and institutional support. Allport (1954) also states that contact can increase prejudice if any of these four conditions are not fulfilled; in order to effectively reduce prejudice, contact must involve communication between groups and they must work together, thus fostering the key conditions for changing attitudes in a positive manner. According to Pettigrew (1998), research has supported the contact hypothesis across a variety of situations and groups. Intergroup contact theory appears to extend to target groups beyond races and ethnicities, including groups based on age, sexual orientation, and disability (Pettigrew et al., 2007). Research also indicates that intergroup contact usually has positive effects, even in situations where Allport’s four conditions for optimal contact are not met (Pettigrew, 1998; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006).
Pettigrew (1998) states that although researchers continue to identify situational factors that allow for optimal contact, requiring too many “essential conditions” will only exclude most intergroup situations and may cause researchers to lose interest in the contact hypothesis (p. 70). Pettigrew and Tropp (2006) refer to previous research on the attitudinal effects of mere-exposure (e.g., Zajonc, 1968) when they state that “social psychology has shown repeatedly that greater exposure to targets can, in and of itself, significantly enhance liking for those targets” (p. 753); therefore, repeated intergroup contact should have positive (or at least, benign) effects, whether or not the optimal conditions are attained. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that “although increased contact itself is associated with reduced prejudice, the effect is magnified significantly under conditions characterizing equal status, cooperation, common goals, and institutional support” (emphasis original; Hodson & Hewstone, 2013, p. 8). Pettigrew and
IndividualsDisabilitiesAttitudesContactNondisabled Individuals