Date of Award

5-1-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Rehabilitation

First Advisor

Upton, Thomas

Abstract

Individuals' feelings, beliefs and attitudes toward people with disabilities have an influence on their willingness to engage in the social relationship with people with disabilities such as forming friendship at the workplace or romantic relationship with people with disabilities. This study explored the attitudes of students toward people with disabilities and their attitudes in the social context of dating, marriage, and work. The study is a cross-sectional survey design. The sample in this study was drawn using convenient sampling. The survey was administered to 575 undergraduate and graduate students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). The researcher examined the influence of students' gender, their previous contact with people with disabilities, cultural factor, and disability status on the general attitudes and students' attitudes toward people with disabilities in various social contexts. The study also assessed the relationship between students' attitudes toward people with disabilities and attitudes toward people with disabilities in various social contexts. Two scales were used to assess students' attitudes in this study which include the Scale of Attitudes toward Disabled Persons (SADP-R) and Disability Social Relations Generalized Disability Scale (DSRGDS). The first instrument measured students' general disability attitude and the second instrument measured students' attitude in the social domain of dating, marriage, and work. In terms of general disability attitude, female students expressed more positive attitudes than male students. International students were found to have more positive attitudes than American students. Students who had previous contact with people with disabilities and students who indicated having a disability had more favorable attitudes toward people with disabilities in general. Based on the multiple regression analysis results, gender, cultural factor (citizenship), disability status, and prior contact (intensity of the relationship) were found to be significant predictors of students' general attitudes toward persons with disability at SIUC. Results of the study provided information about the attitudes of students in various social contexts. Female students had more favorable attitudes toward people with disabilities than male students in the context of dating, marriage, and work. Results showed international students had more favorable attitudes in various social contexts than American students. Those who have indicated having previous contact with people with disabilities and having a disability were likely to have more positive attitudes in the social context than those with no prior contact and without a disability. Hierarchical regression analysis was conducted to determine predictors that significantly affect the attitudes of SIUC students in various social contexts. The results revealed that gender, citizenship, disability status, prior contact with people with disabilities (intensity of the relationship with people with disabilities), and their self-reported general disability attitudes (the SADP-R scores) were predictors that significantly improved the ability to predict the DSRGDS scores. Correlation analyses result indicated a significant relationship between SIUC students' attitudes toward people with disabilities in general and attitudes in various social contexts. Understanding the relative importance of disability attitude in various social contexts will add to the existing body of research and literature specific to disability attitude in rehabilitation counseling and may assist in the development of appropriate training to improve disability awareness and education.

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