Children’s contact with people with disabilities and their attitudes towards disability: a cross-sectional study
Ukoumunne, Obioha C.
Disability and Rehabilitation
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
Purpose: To explore the association between children’s self-reported contact with people with disabilities and attitudes towards them, as well the potential mediating influence of anxiety about interacting with people with disabilities and empathy for them. Method: 1,881 children, aged 7-16 years, from 20 schools in South West England completed a survey assessing their contact with people with disabilities and their attitudes towards them. Anxiety about interacting with people with disabilities and empathy towards them were examined as potential mediators. Gender, school year, perceived similarity between people with and without disabilities, proportion of children with additional needs at the school and socioeconomic status were assessed as moderators. A random effects (‘multilevel’) regression model was used to test the contact-attitude association and moderation, and path analysis was used to test for mediation. Results: Participants with more self-reported contact reported more positive attitudes towards disability (p<0.001). Less anticipated anxiety and greater empathy together mediated around a third of this association. Only school year moderated the contact-attitude association (affective attitudes), with stronger contact-attitude associations in primary school children than secondary school children. Conclusions: Self-reported contact was observed to be associated with more positive attitudes towards disability, which was partially mediated by empathy and anxiety. Providing opportunities for contact with people with disabilities that reduces anxiety and increases empathy may improve attitudes to disability and merits evaluation in interventions.
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care of the South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC)
This is a pre-print of an article subsequently published in Disability and Rehabilitation, 2015.
Vol. 38, pp. 879 - 888