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The Effect of Interpersonal Contact on Attitudes Change Toward People with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities

  • Author(s): Lee, Ji Sun
  • Advisor(s): Moon, Ailee
  • et al.

Background and Aims. Despite many policies promoting the social inclusion of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), negative attitudes are both prevalent and have serious negative consequences for people with I/DD. A better understanding of attitudes and factors can help enhance social inclusion and quality of life for individuals with IDD. Thus, this mixed-methods study aims to (1) describe public attitudes toward persons with IDD among Korean-Americans, (2) investigate predictors of attitudes toward people with IDD, and (3) determine whether naturalistic, interpersonal contact with persons with IDD could improve negative attitudes within the theoretical context of Intergroup Contact Theory.

Methods. Data were collected from 235 of non-disabled, Korean-American adolescents and young adult participants who engaged in a one-to-one contact with persons with IDD during a summer camp. The quantitative data on attitude changes were measured before and immediately following the interventions based on self/group-administered questionnaires. For the qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted.

Results. This study found that interpersonal contact yielded improvement in affective and behavioral factors of attitudes toward people with IDD, while there was no impact on cognitive factors. Previous camp participation, acculturation, religious preference, and levels of education attainment were associated with the attitude change, while controlling for the demographic variables and social desirability. The qualitative research findings yielded attitudes toward persons with IDD changed positively through the intimate contact and bonding with persons with IDD. Perception of their similarities between people with and without IDD and increased knowledge of how to interacting with people with IDD led positive attitude change.

Conclusions. The study suggests that having interpersonal contact with peers with IDD has a significant impact on improving the non-disabled’ attitudes toward people with IDD. Despite its exploratory nature and limitations on the data’s generalizability, the overall findings of the study provide further support for the implementation of integration programs that promote meaningful interactions between individuals with and without IDD and the wider community. This study also provides empirical findings to plan policies and strategies to promote greater acceptance of individuals with IDD into society.

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