Actual and Perceived Attitudes Toward the Disabled: Spinal Cord Injured and Nondisabled Male Populations
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Taft, Thomas B.
This study examined actual and perceived attitudes toward disabled men among samples of nondisabled and spinal cord injured males. Major questions involved differences between disabled and nondisabled males in assigning personality traits to disabled men, the existence of gender related differences in responding to disabled men, and whether recently and long-term disabled men differed in their reactions to disabled men and their expectations of the reactions of others. The sample consisted of 24 spinal cord injured (SCI) and 24 nondisabled men of similar age and educational background. Twelve SCI subjects were involved in an inpatient rehabilitation program (median time-since-onset: 4.9 months) and 12 had returned to the community (median time-since-onset: 25.5 months). All subjects were randomly assigned to one of two stimulus conditions: rating disabled persons or nondisabled persons. Models were trained to pose as nondisabled and as disabled (seated in wheelchair). Subjects rated the photographs (a) based upon personal impressions, (b) as they felt most men would, and (c) as they felt most women would. A 16-scale Semantic Differential Test was used in this study. Subjects also answered four essay questions which requested personal impressions of disabled men, the subject's impressions of how most men view disabled men, how most women view disabled men, and how men and women differ in their impressions of disabled men. Results obtained through analysis of variance with repeated measures (instruction) revealed that nondisabled persons gave lower ratings to the disabled and nondisabled models alike, that all subjects expected males to be least favorable in rating disabled and nondisabled models, that compared to the self, males and females were perceived as more rejecting of disabled men, and that recently disabled individuals overall gave more negative ratings than the long-term disabled. Essay answers revealed a predominant disposition of sympathy and sadness toward disabled men. Males were viewed as tending to avoid, fear and emasculate disabled men; females as more compassionate, accepting, and willing to assist. Implications for the early rehabilitation experiences of disabled persons, and attitudes of health care professionals were discussed.