Sie sind auf Seite 1von 10

66

RCB 50:2 pp. 6675 (2007)

Exploring Undergraduate Student


Attitudes Toward Persons
With Disabilities:
Application of the Disability Social Relationship Scale

Kenneth Hergenrather
The George Washington
University
Scott Rhodes
Wake Forest University School
of Medicine

The Disability Social Relations Generalized Disability (DSRGD) Scale was used to
explore the influence of the social context on attitudes toward persons with disabilities. The DSRGD Scale was based on the Disability Social Relationship (DSR) Scale
(Grand, Bernier, & Strohmer, 1982; Strohmer, Grand, & Purcell, 1984). A sample of
1,013 undergraduate students completed the DSRGD. Principal axis factoring yielded
three factors representing the three contextual subscales of Dating, Marriage, and Work.
The study findings identified a significant effect of context on attitudes toward persons
with disabilities. A significant effect of gender across social context was identified, with
females scoring higher than males on the subscales of Dating, Marriage, and Work.

uring the past four decades, the implementation of


federal legislation affecting persons with disabilities has become increasingly important in promoting opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate in society. Such legislation included the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973, the Civil Rights Commission Act of 1978,
and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
Prior to the passage of the ADA, research suggested that
attitudes toward persons with disabilities were negative
and served as barriers for persons with disabilities to participate in society (Bordiere & Drehmer, 1986; Campbell,
Hensel, Hudson, Schwartz, & Sealander, 1987; Elston &
Snow, 1986; Greenwood & Johnson, 1987; Holmes &
McWilliams, 1981; Martin, Scalia, Gay, & Wolfe, 1982;
Minskoff, Sautter, Hoffman, & Hawks, 1987; Schriner,

Greenwood, & Johnson, 1989). Negative attitudes toward


persons with disabilities continue to prohibit these individuals from fully participating in society, including procuring employment (Brodwin & Orange, 2002; Cook,
1998; Frank & Elliot, 2002; Hergenrather, Rhodes, & McDaniel, 2005; Livneh & Antonak, 1997; Siller, 1976; Smart,
2002). Chubon (1982) identified negative attitudes toward
persons with disabilities as invisible barriers encountered
by persons with disabilities as they pursue opportunities
and help-seeking behaviors. A negative attitude toward
persons with disabilities is significantly correlated with
self-concept, personal issues related to ones disability, utilization of skills and abilities, and public vocational rehabilitation service outcomes (All, Fried, Ritcher, Shaw, &
Roberto, 1997; Beck, Carlton, Alien, Rosenkoetter, &

Volume 50, No. 2 (Winter 2007)

Hardy, 1993; Bowman, 1987; Mullins, Roessler, Schriner,


Brown, & Bellini, 1997; Watson-Armstrong, ORourke,
& Schatzien, 1994).
Social distance has been researched as a component
in the measurement of attitudes. It has been defined as the
relative willingness of one person to participate in relationships of varying degrees of intimacy with a person
who has a stigmatized identity (Bowman, 1987; Link,
Phelan, Bresnahan, Stueve, & Pescolido, 1999). People
who are stigmatized, whatever their perceived lack of conformity, are viewed at a social distance from people who
are nonstigmatized. Social distance is relative to the defined social boundaries of the majority (Pittam & Gallois,
2000). Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) identify the importance of social distance as a social context, a critical factor in the development of attitude measures in addressing
behavior. Attitude toward a specific behavior is performed
with respect to a given target, in a given social context,
and at a given point in time (Ajzen, 1988, 2001; Ajzen &
Fishbein, 1972; Ajzen & Madden, 1986).
Research on the impact of social distance on attitudes toward persons with disabilities suggests that as social distance increases, attitude becomes more positive.
Attitude toward dating persons with disabilities and marrying persons with disabilities has been evaluated less favorably than attitudes toward working with persons with
disabilities (DeLoach, 1994; Grand, Bernier, & Strohmer,
1982; Karnilowicz, Sparrow, & Shinkfield, 1994; Strohmer, Grand, & Purcell, 1984; Stovall & Sedlacek, 1983).
Grand, Bernier, and Strohmer (1982) suggest that attitudes toward disability should be explored within social
context and disability. They found attitudes toward disability varied among social context, with more positive attitudes being more evident in the social context of work
than in the context of dating or marriage. By addressing
social context when researching the issue of attitude, further influences on attitude may be identified and may
suggest ways to modify attitudes toward persons with disabilities (Chen, Brodwin, Cardosa, & Chan, 2002; Gordon, Tantillo, Feldman, & Perrone, 2004; Lauber, Nordt,
Falcato, & Roessler, 2004; Meyer, Gouvier, Duke, & Advokat, 2001; Pittam & Gallois, 2000; Wong, Chan, Cardoso, Lam, & Miller, 2004).
One way to further research on the effect of social
context on attitude toward persons with disabilities is to
study the attitudes of undergraduate students. This population represents individuals who are preparing to enter
working professions in which they are likely to interact
with persons with disabilities in the capacity of professional peer, co-worker, supervisor, and subordinate. In a
sample of 259 undergraduate students, Gordon, Minnes,
and Holden (1990) reported significant differences in attitudes toward persons with disabilities within the social
contexts of work, dating, and marriage. Several studies

67

have found that gender has an effect on undergraduate


student attitude toward persons with disabilities. Further,
students with negative bias toward persons with disabilities may adversely influence other students, which may
erode self-esteem and increase feelings of hopelessness
and pessimism among persons with disabilities (Makas,
Finnerty-Fried, Sigafoos, & Reiss, 1988; Royal & Roberts,
1987; Paris, 1993; Stovall & Sedlacek, 1983; Tervo,
Palmer, & Redinius, 2004). The major premise of this article is that the measurement of undergraduate students
attitudes toward persons with disabilities within social
context may provide clear and formative data and identify
variables on which to intervene and modify attitudes toward persons with disabilities.

DISABILITY SOCIAL
R ELATIONSHIP SCALE
Grand, Bernier, and Strohmer (1982) developed the Disability Social Relationship (DSR) Scale to test the hypothesis that social context affects attitudes toward
persons with disabilities. The DSR consists of three 6-item
social relationship subscales identified as Dating, Marriage, and Work. Each of the 18 subscale items was written to address the four disabilities of amputation, visual
impairment, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. Among a sample
of 191 university faculty/staff, statistically significant correlations were identified between the subscales. Results
suggested significant main effects for social situation (F =
44.80, p < .001). Internal consistency measures of reliability for the DSR total scale and subscales ranged from
.85 to .95. Strohmer, Grand, and Purcell (1984) further
explored the DSR Scale through a replication study of
214 university faculty/staff. They found significant main
effects for social situation (F = 9.30, p < .001), suggesting
that attitudes differ in varying social situations. Gordon,
Minnes, and Holden (1990) explored the factor structure
of the DSR Scale with 259 undergraduate students across
the aforementioned four disabilities. A principal components analysis yielded a nine-factor solution. The proportion of variance explained was 54.4%. Statistically
significant differences were found between the three social relationship subscales. Results suggested a main effect
for social situation F(2, 216) = 44.89, p < .001, suggesting
that attitudes differ in varying social contexts. Although
Gordon et al. (1990) explored the factor structure of the
DSR Scale by social relationship subscales, across disabilities the interpretation of the three DSR subscales has not
been explored for empirical validation. These studies suggest the necessity of examining the DSR subscales factor
structure across generalized disability to identify the summated scales for the subscales of Dating, Marriage, and
Work.

68

Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin

P URPOSE OF THE STUDY

Likert scale (4 = strongly agree, 3 = agree, 2 = disagree, 1 =


strongly disagree).

The purpose of this study was to determine the influence


of social context on attitudes toward persons with disabilities. The Disability Social Relations Generalized (DSRGD)
Scale, created by the authors, was applied to better understand the multidimensionality of attitudes toward persons with disabilities. The DSR Scale was the basis for the
development of the DSRGD. The following research
question was asked: Is attitude toward persons with disabilities a function of social context? Through this question, the authors addressed the following hypotheses:

Dating Subscale. The dating subscale is a 6-item


measure of attitude toward persons with disabilities in the
social context of dating, representing the DSR Dating
subscale. The content addresses friendship, level of comfort in dating, worries about what others think, embarrassment regarding helping ones date in public, willingness
to have a sexual relationship, and comfort having sexual
intercourse.

1. Attitude toward persons with disabilities is


multidimensional.
2. Attitude toward persons with disabilities
varies by social context.
3. Attitude toward persons with disabilities
varies by gender.

M ETHOD
The study used a descriptive factor analysis with confirmatory elements. A deductive research approach was
used, providing a direct and narrow focus, analyses by
construct, and higher validity and resulting in meaningful
measures (Burisch, 1984; Vogt, 1999).

Instrument
The DSRGD is an anonymous paper-and-pencil 18-item
instrument. In producing the DSRGD, the authors used
the three 6-item subscales (Dating, Marriage, and Work)
of the DSR, altering the items to reflect general disability
rather than specific disability. They also replaced the
Thurstone two-response scaling with a Likert scale, a
commonly used attitude measure in social sciences that is
comparatively easy to construct, is appropriate for attitude
measurement across more than one dimension, and has
higher reliability (Vogt, 1999). The DSRGD was validated by two expert panels: (a) four Rehabilitation Counseling Program faculty experienced in counseling persons
with disabilities and (b) three Public Health Behavioral
Science Department faculty experienced in attitudinal
and behavioral measurement. The instrument was piloted
with 15 undergraduate students majoring in rehabilitation
services. Based on the recommendations of the expert
panel review and pilot study, consensus was found and
subsequent recommended changes were made. The study
was approved by the universitys Institutional Review
Board.
The DSRGD includes three subscales representing
Dating, Marriage, and Work across general disability.
Each scale contains six items, evaluated using a 4-point

Marriage Subscale. The Marriage subscale is a


6-item measure of attitude toward persons with disabilities
within the social context of marriage, representing the
DSR Marriage subscale. The content addresses the consideration of marriage, intent of marriage, partner dependence, comfort making love, partners ability to earn
income, and partner responsibility as a parent.
Work Subscale. The Work subscale is a 6-item
measure of attitude toward persons with disabilities within
the social context of work, representing the DSR Work
subscale. The content addresses co-worker relationships,
requirement of accommodation assistance, consideration
of words used during conversation, co-worker interaction,
co-worker socialization, and ability to perform job duties.
The DSRGD addresses sociodemographics, including gender, age, race/ethnicity, education level, college
major, disability status, and whether the participant had
social interaction with a person with a disability (e.g.,
Do you know, or have you known, a person with a disability?). Gender was operationalized as a dichotomous
variable, with responses of male or female. Age was operationalized by self-report of number of years lived. Race/
Ethnicity was operationalized as a categorical variable,
with responses of African American, American Indian/
Alaskan American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Caucasian, Hispanic/Latino American, and Other. Education
level was operationalized as a categorical variable, with responses of 12 years/freshman, 13 years/sophomore, 14 years/
junior, and 15 years/senior. College major was operationalized as a categorical variable, with responses of Agriculture, Business, Education, Engineering, Forestry, Liberal Arts,
Science, and Other. Disability status was operationalized as
a dichotomous variable, with responses of Yes or No. Social interaction was operationalized as a dichotomous variable, with responses of Yes or No.

Procedure
The authors conducted a 30-minute training for 37 thirdand fourth-year undergraduate students majoring in public rehabilitation services and enrolled in a rehabilitation

Volume 50, No. 2 (Winter 2007)

services course. Student involvement was independent of


course requirements. Students identified campus locations
where they were most likely to congregate (e.g., student
union, cafeteria, student sports center, on-campus student
housing, student organization meeting rooms) and times
at which most students frequented the locations. Each
student established a goal of obtaining 30 completed surveys during a 16-week semester. Students were asked to
pursue a culturally diverse sample representing the demographics of the undergraduate population, which had
been identified as 11,191 (51.1%) men; 10,709 (48.9%)
women; 19,258 (87.9%) Caucasians; 1,710 (7.8%) African Americans; 360 (1.6%) Asian American/Pacific Islanders; 309 (1.4%) Hispanic/Latino Americans; 116 (0.5%)
American Indian/Alaskan Americans; and 148 (0.6%)
Other. The student training included modeling behavior
and role plays, which addressed (a) identifying the purpose of the DSRGD; (b) approaching students to determine interest in, and eligibility for, completing the
DSRGD; and (c) providing the DSRGD, Internal Review
Board information sheet, and a listing of campus and community disability resources to eligible participants. To ensure anonymity, participants were provided an envelope
in which to place the completed DSRGD. The envelope
was addressed with a university room number where participants could return the DSRGD survey. All DSRGD
surveys were numbered to determine response rate.

Participants
The study population was a convenience sample of undergraduate students enrolled at a large university in the
southern United States. Selection criteria consisted of
being (a) an undergraduate student and (b) currently enrolled in coursework at the university. Of the 1,297
students given the DSRGD, a total of 1,013 (78.1%) completed the survey. Participant characteristics included a
mean age of 22.1 years; 610 (60.2%) were women; 893
(88.2%) were Caucasians; 99 (9.8%) were African Americans; 7 (0.7%) were Latino/Hispanics; 5 (0.5%) were Asian
American/Pacific Islanders; 4 (0.4%) were Native Americans; 2 (0.2%) identified themselves as Other; 37 (3.6%)
identified themselves as a person with a disability; 985
(97.7%) reported social interaction with a person with a
disability; 190 (18.8%) reported completing 12 years of
education; 232 (22.9%) completed 1 year of college; 286
(28.2%) completed 2 years of college; and 252 (24.9%)
completed 3 years of college.

Analyses
Analyses were conducted using SPSS, Version 11.0
(SPSS, 2002). Based on the structure of the DSRGD, a
factor analysis was conducted. The principal axis factoring

69

method of data analysis was used to develop the summated


scales for Dating, Marriage, and Work. This method allowed for sharing of variance among variables while allowing variance to be unique; the communalities of the
variables were not inflated, and it accounted for measurement error (Velicer & Jackson, 1990). Because the factors
were believed to be correlated, direct oblimin rotation was
used (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1998; Pedhazur,
& Schmelkin, 1991).

R ESULTS
Construct Validation
Four statistical criteria were applied to determine the
number of factors to extract: the absolute magnitude of
eigenvalues of factors greater than 1, the percentage of
variance explained by the factor solution to exceed 60%,
the Thurstone recommendation of at least three items per
factor, and the interpretation of the scree plot. A conservative factor loading criterion was set at .40, which is considered significant in sample sizes greater than 200 (Hair
et al., 1998; Maxwell, Cole, Arvey, & Salas, 1993; Kim &
Mueller, 1978; Nunnely, 1970). In the final rotated factor
matrix of the 18 items, 17 of the items appropriately
loaded on three factors representing the three subscales
(see Table 1). The factors were supported by the visual interpretation of the scree test (Cattell, 1966). The three
factors accounted for 63.77% of the total variance, with
eigenvalues greater than 1. This supported the percentage
of variance criteria established by the authors to ensure
practical significance of the derived factors. The factor
loading exceeded .60, indicating the practical significance
of the factor loadings to explain more than 36% of the
variance. The three-factor solution was identified by the
factors of Dating, Marriage, and Work. The variances explained by Dating, Marriage, and Work were 39.97%,
14.05%, and 9.75%, respectively. The sampling adequacy
index was .88, interpreted as meritorious (Hair et al.,
1998).
The first factor, Dating, was a summated scale of six
items representing the DSR Dating subscale. The second
factor, Marriage, was a summated scale of the six items
representing the DSR Marriage subscale. The third factor,
Work, was a summated scale of five of the six items representing the DSR Work subscale; the item addressing the
consideration of used words during conversation did not load.
The summated scales were strongly associated with each
other, and inter-item correlations were statistically significant. The Dating, Marriage, and Work summated scales
represented dimensionality and confirmed the DSR subscales. Among the means of the summated scales, Work
(M = 3.17, SD = .55) was highest, Marriage (M = 3.07,
SD = .53) was intermediate, and Dating (M = 2.82, SD =

70

Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin

TABLE 1. Rotated Factor Matrix


Factor
Item

1. I would have friendship, nothing more, with a person with a disability.

.465

2. When dating a person with a disability, I would not feel uncomfortable if people would stare.

.854

3. In dating a person with a disability, I would not worry what others think.

.932

4. When dating a person with a disability, I would not be embarrassed to help the person eat in
public.

.963

5. When dating a person with a disability, I would be willing to have a sexual relationship with
him or her.

.950

6. When dating a person with a disability, I would not find sex or physical contact with him or
her embarrassing.

.696

7. In considering marriage, I would not exclude a person with a disability.

.796

8. If I loved a person with a disability, I would try to marry him or her.

.690

9. A spouse with a disability would not be too dependent on me.

.679

10. In marriage to a person with a disability, I would feel comfortable making love to my partner.

.631

11. In marriage to a person with a disability, my partner would be able to earn an adequate income.

.616

12. In marriage to a person with a disability, a partner would take full responsibility as a parent.

.530

14. In the workplace, I would have a close relationship with a co-worker who has a disability.

.444

15. In the workplace, I would not expect a co-worker with a disability to require extra help and
attention that would disrupt normal activities.

.806

16. In the workplace, I would be comfortable eating lunch with a co-worker who has a disability.

.872

17. In the workplace, I would be comfortable socializing with a co-worker who has a disability.

.766

18. In the workplace, I would be surprised if a co-worker with a disability fell behind in his or
her work.

.478

Note. D = Dating; M = Marriage; W = Work.

.72) was lowest. During data entry, it was noted that 107
(10.5%) surveys contained comments in the margin of the
Dating scale, next to the question addressing sexual relationships while dating. The authors identified these comments as stating that sexual relations were only acceptable
within a committed relationship (e.g., marriage, civil
ceremony, civil union).
Two internal consistency estimates of reliability were
computed for the DSRGD: Cronbachs alpha and a splithalf reliability expressed as a Spearman-Brown corrected
correlation. Based on Loevinger (1954) criteria, Cronbachs alpha was reported as excellent for the DSRGD
(.89), excellent for the Dating summated scale (.92), good
for the Marriage summated scale (.83), and good for the
Work summated scale (.81). Statistically significant correlations were determined between the Dating and the
Marriage summated scales (rs = .47, p < .01), between the
Dating and Work summated scales (rs = .32, p < .01), and
between the Marriage and Work summated scales (rs =

.39, p < .01). For the split-half coefficient, the DSRGD


data were split into two halves such that the two halves
would be as equivalent as possible. In splitting items, we
took into consideration the sequencing of the items and
whether the item indicated the DSRGD Dating, Marriage, or Work subscale. Because there were 17 items, the
authors entered the first half to include Items 1, 3, 5, 7, 9,
11, 15, and 17 and the second half to include Items 2, 4,
6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. Because there were an odd
number of items, the SPSS program added Item 2 to the
first half for equivalency. Values for the coefficient alpha
and the split-half coefficient were the same, .89, indicating satisfactory reliability (DeVellis, 1991).

Factors Discriminating
Between Groups
Students t tests were conducted, using Levenes test, to
investigate factors discriminating between gender, age,

Volume 50, No. 2 (Winter 2007)

71

and race/ethnicity. Because of low sample sizes, comparisons between two sets of groups could not be conducted
between persons having interaction (n = 985) and persons
having no interaction with a person with a disability (n = 23),
and between persons with a disability (n = 37) and persons
without a disability (n = 976). Because of small sample sizes,
only the race/ethnicity groups of Caucasian (n = 893) and
African American (n = 99) were compared. For the purpose of analysis, the variable age was collapsed into two
groups based on a sample mean of 22.1 years, consisting of
18 to 22 years of age (n = 651) and 23 to 60 years of age
(n = 361). No statistically significant differences were
found with race/ethnicity or age.
Statistically significant differences were identified
between women (n = 610) and men (n = 403), implying
more positive attitudes among women across context.
Women reported a higher score on the total DSRGD
scale (M = 52.54, SD = 7.30) than men (M = 49.28,
SD = 8.46), t(938) = 6.26, p < .001; a higher score on the
Dating summated scale (M = 17.51, SD = 4.20) than men
(M = 16.17, SD = 4.42), t(984) = 3.53, p < .001; a higher
score on the Marriage summated scale (M = 18.77, SD =
2.89) than men (M = 17.93, SD = 3.47), t(967) = 4.74,
p < .001; and a higher score on the Work summated scale
(M = 16.17, SD = 2.64) than men (M = 15.26, SD = .58),
t(985) = 5.04, p < .001. Statistically significant differences
were found on 13 of 17 items. No significant differences
were found on Items 1, 6, 9, and 11. See Table 2.
In accordance with the analyses used by Grand et al.
(1982), Strohmer et al. (1984), and Gordon et al. (1990),

a two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was


conducted to explore the effect of social context on attitudes and the effect of gender. The Bonferroni procedure
was applied to control for Type I error. Regardless of gender, the scale scores differed significantly across social
context F(1, 938) = 281.1, p < .001, partial 2 = .38. Gender had a significant effect across social context as measured by subscales F(1, 938) = 56.2, p < .001, partial 2 =
.06, but the effect is not differential F(1, 938) = 3.40, p =
.065, partial 2 = .01. Women scored higher across subscales than men, but the difference was not significant
across subscales.

DISCUSSION
In this study, the factor structure of the DSRGD was examined to explore the influence of social context on attitudes toward persons with disabilities. The study extends
beyond a single measurement attitude scale to identify the
effect of the social contexts of dating, marriage, and work
among 1,013 undergraduate students. Although the authors limited their focus to undergraduate students, the
study findings supported a three-construct model, aligning with the DSR subscales. The final 17-item version of
the DSRGD Scale presented adequate psychometric properties. The components had high internal consistency,
represented by a Cronbachs alpha of .89. Each of the summated scales of Dating, Marriage, and Work had good or
excellent reliability, represented dimensionality, and con-

TABLE 2. DSRGD Subscale Means


Sample (n = 1,013)

Women (n = 610)

Men (n = 403)

Dating factor
1 (reverse-scored)
2
3
4
5
6

3.13
2.95
2.87
2.78
2.71
2.55

3.15
3.06
2.98
2.89
2.81
2.58

3.10
2.76
2.69
2.60
2.54
2.50

0.37
0.00**
0.00**
0.00**
0.00**
0.19

Marriage factor
7
8
9
10
11
12

3.31
3.39
2.68
3.10
2.66
3.35

3.37
3.44
2.71
3.16
2.67
3.42

3.20
3.31
2.62
2.99
2.62
3.23

0.00**
0.01*
0.09
0.00**
0.27
0.00**

Work factor
14
15
16
17
18

2.61
3.32
3.21
3.11
3.56

2.55
3.42
3.29
3.20
3.63

2.65
3.18
3.09
2.96
3.46

0.04*
0.00**
0.00**
0.00**
0.01*

*p < .05. **p < .001.

72

formed to the conceptual definitions identified by the


DSR. The factor analysis identified the dimensionality of
a set of items by determining the number of factors and
the loadings of each item on that factor. The studies of
Grand et al. (1982), Strohmer et al. (1984), and Gordon
et al. (1990) proposed three dimensions, each representing a separate factor consisting of variables. Based on the
factor analysis, these three dimensions were identified,
validating the Dating summated scale, the Marriage summated scale, and the Work summated scale. The dimensions of Dating, Marriage, and Work aligned with the
three subscales of the DSR. Convergent validity was established through comparison of the study findings to
those of Grand et al. (1982), Strohmer et al. (1984), and
Gordon et al. (1990). The analysis of variance identified
a statistically significant large effect of context on attitudes (partial 2 = .38) across summated scales and a statistically significant smaller effect of gender across social
context (partial 2 = .06). These findings support the research of Grand et al. (1982), Strohmer et al. (1984), and
Gordon et al. (1990) through identifying the influence of
social context on attitudes toward persons with disabilities.
The mean score for Work was the highest, suggesting
that undergraduates have positive attitudes toward persons with disabilities in the workplace. This finding is
consistent with the results of prior studies (Gordon et al.,
1990; Grand et al., 1982; Strohmer et al., 1984). Participants reported to Agree with three items and Strongly
Agree with two items: In the workplace I would not expect a co-worker with a disability to require extra help and
attention that would disrupt normal activities and In
the workplace, I would be comfortable socializing with a
co-worker with a disability. In regard to social context,
social relationships with a person with a disability in the
workplace are less intimate than the relationship within
the context of dating or marriage. Rusch, Wilson, Hughes,
and Heal (1995) found that among co-worker interaction
in the workplace, persons without disabilities had positive
attitudes toward persons with disabilities.
Marriage had the second highest mean score. This is
consistent with the results of Grand et al. (1982) and
Strohmer et al. (1984). Participants evaluated three items
as Agree and three items as Strongly Agree: In considering
marriage, I wouldnt exclude a person with a disability;
If I loved a person with a disability, I would try to marry
him or her; and In marriage to a person with a disability, a partner would take full responsibility as a parent.
The mean score for the Dating was the lowest. This is
consistent with the findings of Gordon et al. (1990). Participants evaluated all items as Agree.
Undergraduate students of both genders reported
positive attitudes toward persons with disabilities across
social contexts, which may suggest that undergraduate
students perceive individuals with disabilities as being

Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin

similar to persons without disabilities. Statistically significant differences were identified with gender. Female students reported a more positive attitude than male
students. This is consistent with the findings of Gordon
et al. (1990). The effect was similar across all summated
scales. Research findings have supported gender as a variable that influences attitudes toward persons with disabilities. Positive attitudes toward persons with disabilities
have been correlated with female gender (Antonak & Livneh, 1988, 2000; Chubon, 1982; Dunn, Umlauf, & Mermis, 1992; Mitchell, Hayes, Gordon, & Wallis, 1984; Paris,
1993; Yuker & Block, 1986). Women have been reported
to have greater empathy toward others, including persons
with disabilities (Jones & Stone, 1995; Livneh, 1982).
Several studies have found that among college students,
women have more favorable attitudes toward persons with
disabilities than do men (Makas, Finnerty-Fried, Sigafoos,
& Reiss, 1988; Royal & Roberts, 1987; Stovall & Sedlacek, 1983). Chen, Brodwin, Cardosa, and Chan (2002)
found that attitudes of undergraduate students toward persons with disability varied by gender and the social contexts of dating and marriage; women held more positive
attitudes than men. As men deviate from roles they identify as masculine, they become concerned with the perceptions of others and less comfortable interacting with
persons with disabilities (Baffi, Redican, Sefchick, & Impara, 1991; McCreary, 1994). Women have reported less
discomfort than men when interacting with persons with
disabilities. Men with disabilities have reported that
women who are nondisabled seek their friendship and relationships because they are perceived as being less sexual
in the relationship and are considered safe (Shakespeare, 1999; Tepper, 1999).
Among study participants, 107 (10.6%) wrote comments on the survey addressing disapproval of sexual
intercourse outside of committed relationships. The comments were written in the margins of two survey items:
(a) When dating a person with a disability, I would
be willing to have a sexual relationship with him or her and
(b) When dating a person with a disability, I would not find
sex or physical contact embarrassing with him or her. The
comments suggest a prevailing cultural or social norm
among college students in the southern United States.
Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb (1998) reported that in a
24-country study addressing adult attitudes toward nonmarital sex, nonmarital sex was reported as Always
wrong by 29% of U.S. respondents and 17% of respondents across all countries. However, Kahn et al. (2000) reported that among 142 undergraduate students, 86% of
the women and 88% of the men engaged in nonmarital
sex with a person for whom they perceived no commitment. Lambert, Kahn, and Apple (2003) reported that in
a sample of 264 undergraduate students, 77.7% of women
and 84.2% of men engaged in nonmarital sex without per-

Volume 50, No. 2 (Winter 2007)

sonal future commitment. This observation further supports the impact of attitude measurement within social
context and needs further exploration.

Limitations
The study findings must be interpreted within limitations.
First, although the sample was representative of the population from which it was drawn, it appeared to be homogeneous. Therefore, it is limited in its representation of
persons with disabilities, African Americans, Asian
American/Pacific Islanders, Hispanic/Latino Americans,
and American Indian/Alaskan Americans despite the fact
that students from these underrepresented groups were actively recruited to be study participants. Caution should
be taken in making generalizations beyond the study population. Although the findings support positive attitudes
toward persons with disabilities by undergraduate students, further research is needed. Second, self-report measures may have been biased by social desirability concerns
or faking good, which may not translate into actual behaviors (Streiner & Norman, 1995). Third, the structure
of the DSRGD was explored with one disability scale that
generalized all disabilities. This may have misrepresented
participants attitudes toward specific disabilities. Further
studies could apply the subscales across the most frequent
disabilities (e.g., orthopedic, mental illness, nonorthopedic physical, mental retardation) reported among
consumers of public vocational rehabilitation services
(Rehabilitation Services Administration, 2002). Fourth,
the measurement of social interaction was operationalized
by a dichotomous variable that did not specify the type of
interaction, frequency of interaction, or interaction by social situation, therefore possibly masking the hypothesized
relationship between social interaction and contextual attitude. In some cases a person may interact daily and extensively with a person with a disability, whereas others
may have or had limited interaction in the past. The measure should address frequency and type of interaction with
a person with a disability within the specific contexts of
dating, marriage, and work. A Likert scale, a commonly
used attitude measure in social sciences and comparatively easy to construct, would be appropriate for attitude
measurement across more than one dimension and has
higher reliability (Vogt, 1999). With respect to the limitations, study findings suggest the benefit of further exploration of the influence of social context and gender
effect on attitudes toward persons with disabilities.

CONCLUSION
Through the application of the DSRGD, the results of the
factor analysis confirmed the findings of several authors

73

(Gordon et al., 1990; Grand et al., 1982; Strohmer et al.,


1984) and suggested the following: (a) attitude toward
persons with disabilities may be influenced by social context and (b) attitude measurement is multidimensional.
This supports research using a multidimensional measure
of attitude to address the influence of social context on
behavior (Ajzen, 1988; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Brannon, 1976; Fazio & Zanna, 1978; Shuman & Johnson,
1976). From a practical point of view, empirical observations suggest that attitude toward persons with disabilities
is dependent on social context and statistically significant
differences are correlated with gender. The study findings
should be further applied to address attitudes toward specific disabilities (e.g., HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, psychiatric) within social contexts. The results of this study
can provide information to university and college student
disability support services to prepare students with disabilities to anticipate different attitudes from persons
without disabilities in regard to social contexts and gender. By acknowledging the potential effect of social context and gender on attitudes toward persons with
disabilities, rehabilitation professionals have the unique
opportunity to assist consumers in developing adjustment
strategies within specific social contexts.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Kenneth C. Hergenrather, PhD, CRC, is an assistant professor of rehabilitation counseling in the Department of Counseling, Human, and Organizational Studies and the Center
for Rehabilitation Counseling Research and Education, The
George Washington University. Scott D. Rhodes, PhD,
CHES, is an assistant professor of social sciences and health
policy in the Department of Public Health Sciences, Wake
Forest University School of Medicine. Address: Kenneth C.
Hergenrather, Department of Counseling, Human, and Organizational Studies, Graduate School of Education and
Human Development, The George Washington University,
2134 G St. NW., Rm. 318, Washington, DC 20037; e-mail:
hergenkc@gwu.edu.
REFERENCES
All, A. C., Fried, J. H., Ritcher, J. M., Shaw, D. G., & Roberto, K. A.
(1997). The effect of HIV/AIDS education on the anxiety of rehabilitation workers. Journal of Rehabilitation, 63(4), 4552.
Ajzen, I. (1988). Attitude, personality and behaviour. Milton Keynes:
Open University Press. New York: Springer.
Ajzen, I. (2001). Nature and operation of attitudes. Annual Review of
Psychology, 52, 2758.
Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1972). Attitude and normative beliefs as factors influencing behavioral intentions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21(1), 19.
Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting
social behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

74

Ajzen, I., & Madden, T. J. (1986). Prediction of goal-directed behavior:


Attitudes, intentions, and perceived behavioral control. Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 453474.
Antonak, R., & Livneh, H. (1988). The measurement of attitudes toward
people with disabilities: Methods, psychometrics, and scales. Springfield,
IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Antonak, R., & Livneh, H. (2000). Measurement of attitudes towards
persons with disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation, 22, 211224.
Baffi, C., Redican, K., Sefchick, M., & Impara, J. (1991). Gender role
identity, gender role stress, and health behaviors: An exploratory
study of selected college males. Health Values, 15, 918.
Beck, R., Carlton, T., Alien, H., Rosenkoetter, L., & Hardy, K. (1993).
Understanding and counseling special populations with HIV disease. American Rehabilitation, 19(3), 2029.
Bordiere, J., & Drehmer, D. (1986). Hiring decisions for disabled workers: Looking at the cause. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 16, 197
208.
Bowman, J. T. (1987). Attitudes toward disabled persons: Social distance and work competence. Journal of Rehabilitation, 53(1), 4144.
Brannon, R. (1976). Attitudes and the prediction of behavior. In
B. Seidenberg and A. Snadowsky (Eds.), Social psychology: An introduction. New York: Free Press.
Brodwin, M. G., & Orange, L. M. (2002). Attitudes toward disability.
In J. D. Andrew & C. W. Faubion (Eds.), Rehabilitation services: An
introduction for the human service professional (pp. 174197). Osage
Beach, MO: Aspen.
Burisch, M. (1984). Approaches to personality inventory construction:
A comparison of merits. The American Psychologist, 39, 214227.
Campbell, P., Hensel, J., Hudson, P., Schwartz, S., & Sealander, K.
(1987). The successful employed worker with a handicap: Employee/
employer perceptions of job performance. Career Development for
Exceptional Individuals, 10, 8594.
Cattell, R. (1966). The scree test for the number of factors. Multivariate
Behavioral Research, 1, 245276.
Chen, R. K., Brodwin, M. G., Cardosa, E., & Chan, F. (2002). Attitudes
toward people with disabilities in the social context of dating and
marriage: A comparison of American, Taiwanese, and Singaporean
college students. Journal of Rehabilitation, 68(4), 511.
Chubon, R. A. (1982). An analysis of research dealing with attitudes of
professionals toward disability. Journal of Rehabilitation, 48(1), 25
30.
Cook, D. (1998). Psychosocial impact of disability. In R. M. Parker &
E. M. Szymanski (Eds.), Rehabilitation counseling: Basics and beyond
(3rd ed., pp. 303326). Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
DeLoach, C. (1994). Attitudes toward disability: Impact on sexual development and forging of intimate relationships. Journal of Applied
Rehabilitation Counseling, 25, 1825.
DeVellis, R. F. (1991). Scale development: Theory of applications. Applied Social Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Dunn, M., Umlauf, R., & Mermis, B. (1992). The rehabilitation situations inventory; staff perception of difficult behavioral situations in
rehabilitation. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 73,
316319.
Elston, R., & Snow, B. (1986). Attitudes toward people with disabilities
as expressed by rehabilitation professionals. Rehabilitation Counseling
Bulletin, 29, 284286.
Fazio, R. H., & Zanna, M. (1978). Attitudinal qualities relating to the
strength of the attitude-behavior relationship. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 14, 398408.
Frank, R., & Elliot, T. (2002). Handbook of rehabilitation psychology.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Gordon, E. D., Minnes, P. M., & Holden, R. R. (1990). The structure
of attitudes toward persons with a disability, when specific disability
and context are considered. Rehabilitation Psychology, 35(2), 7990.
Gordon, P. A., Tantillo, J. C., Feldman, D., & Perrone, K. (2004). Attitudes regarding interpersonal relationships with persons with men-

Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin

tal illness and mental retardation. Journal of Rehabilitation, 70(1),


5056.
Grand, S. A., Bernier, J. E., & Strohmer, D. C. (1982). Attitudes toward
disabled persons as a function of social context and specific disability. Rehabilitation Psychology, 27(3), 165173.
Greenwood, R., & Johnson, V. (1987). Employer perspectives on workers with disabilities. Journal of Rehabilitation, 53, 3745.
Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (1998).
Multivariate data analysis (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice
Hall.
Hergenrather, K. C., Rhodes, S. D., & McDaniel, R. S. (2005). Correlates of job placement: Public rehabilitation counselors and consumers living with AIDS. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 48(3),
94115.
Holmes, D., & McWilliams, J. (1981). Employers attitudes toward hiring epileptics. Journal of Rehabilitation, 47, 2023.
Jones, G., & Stone, D. (1995). Perceived discomfort associated with
working with persons with varying disabilities. Perceptual and Motor
Skills, 81, 911919.
Kahn, A. S., Fricker, K., Hoffman, J., Lambert, T., Tripp, M., Childress,
K., et al. (2000, August). Hooking up: Dangerous new dating methods? In A. S. Kahn (Chair), Sex, unwanted sex, and sexual assault on
college campuses. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of
the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.
Karnilowicz, W., Sparrow, W., & Shinkfield, A. (1994). High school
students attitudes toward performing social behaviors with mentally
retarded and physically disabled peers. Journal of Social Behavior and
Personality, 9, 6580.
Kim, J., & Mueller, C. (1978). Factor analysis: Statistical methods and
practical issues (Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences Series, No. 14). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Lambert, T., Kahn, S., & Apple, K. (2003). Pluralistic ignorance and
hooking up. Journal of Sex Research, 40(2), 129133.
Lauber, C., Nordt, C., Falcato, L., & Roessler, W. (2004). Factors influencing social distance toward people with mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal, 40(3), 265273.
Link, B. G., Phelan, J. C., Bresnahan, M., Stueve, A., & Pescolido,
B. A. (1999). Public conceptions of mental illness: Labels, causes,
dangerousness, and social distance. American Journal of Public
Health, 89(9), 13281333.
Livneh, H. (1982). Factor analysis of the attitudes toward disabled persons scaleform A. Rehabilitation Psychology, 27(4), 235243.
Livneh, H., & Antonak, R. (1997). Psychological adaptation to chronic illness and disability. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.
Loevinger, J. (1954). The attenuation paradox in text theory. Psychological Bulletin, 51, 493504.
Makas, E., Finnerty-Fried, P., Sigafoos, A., & Reiss, D. (1988). The issues in disability scale: A new cognitive & affective measure of attitudes toward people with physical disabilities. Journal of Applied
Rehabilitation Counseling, 19(1), 2129.
Martin, W., Scalia, V., Gay, D., & Wolfe, R. (1982). Beginning counselors attitudes toward disabled persons. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 13, 1416.
Maxwell, S., Cole, D., Arvey, R., & Salas, E. (1993). A comparison of
methods for increasing power in randomized between-subject designs. Psychological Bulletin, 11(2), 328337.
McCreary, D. R. (1994). The male role and avoiding femininity. Sex
Roles, 31, 517-531.
Meyer, L., Gouvier, W. D., Duke, M., & Advokat, C. (2001). Influence
of social context on reported attitudes of nondisabled students
toward students with disabilities. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin,
45(1), 5052.
Minskoff, E., Sautter, S., Hoffman, F., & Hawks, R. (1987). Employer
attitudes toward hiring the learning disabled. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 20, 5358.
Mitchell, K., Hayes, M., Gordon, J., & Wallis, B. (1984). An investiga-

Volume 50, No. 2 (Winter 2007)

tion of the attitudes of medical students to physically disabled people. Medical Education, 18, 2123.
Mullins, J., Roessler, R., Schriner, K., Brown, P., & Bellini, J. (1997).
Improving employment outcomes through quality rehabilitation
counseling. Journal of Rehabilitation, 63(4), 2132.
Nunnely, T. (1970). Introduction to psychological measurement. New York:
McGraw-Hill.
Paris, M. J. (1993). Attitudes of medical students and health professionals towards people with disabilities. Archives of Physical Medicine
and Rehabilitation, 74, 818825.
Pedhazur, E. J., & Schmelkin, L. P. (1991). Measurement, design, and
analysis: An integrated approach. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Pittam, J., & Gallois, C. (2000). Malevolence, stigma, and social distance: Maximizing intergroup differences in HIV/AIDS discourse.
Journal of Applied Communication Research, 28(1), 2443.
Rehabilitation Services Administration. (2002). Longitudinal study of
the vocational rehabilitation services program: Implications for practice.
Washington, DC: RSA.
Royal, G., & Roberts, M. (1987). Students perceptions of and attitudes
toward disabilities. North American Journal of Psychology, 1, 255
260.
Rusch, F., Wilson, P., Hughes, C., & Heal, L. (1995). Interaction of persons with severe mental retardation and their non-disabled coworkers in integrated work settings. Behavior Modification, 19, 59
77.
Schriner, K., Greenwood, R., & Johnson, V. (1989). Counselor perceptions of employer concerns about workers with disabilities and employer-rehabilitation partnerships. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin,
33, 140150.
Shakespeare, T. (1999). The sexual politics of disabled masculinity. Sexuality and Disability, 17(1), 5364.
Siller, J. (1976). Attitudes toward disability. In H. Rusalem & D. Malikin (Eds.), Contemporary vocational rehabilitation (pp. 6779). New
York: New York University Press.
Smart, J. (2002). Disability, society, and the individual. Austin, TX:
PRO-ED.
SPSS. (2002). Base 11.0 applications guide [Computer software].
Chicago: SPSS Inc.

75

Stovall, C., & Sedlacek, W. (1983). Attitudes of male and female university students toward students with different physical disabilities.
College Student Personnel, 26, 325330.
Streiner, D. L., & Norman, G. R. (1995). Health measurement scales: A
practical guide to their development and use (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Strohmer, D. C., Grand, S. A., & Purcell, M. J. (1984). Attitudes
toward persons with a disability: An examination of demographic
factors, social context, and specific disability. Rehabilitation Psychology, 29(3), 131145.
Shuman, H., & Johnson, M. P. (1976). Attitude and behavior. Annual
Review of Sociology, 2, 161207.
Tepper, M. S. (1999). Letting go of restrictive notions of manhood:
Male sexuality, disability, and chronic illness. Sexuality and Disability, 17(1), 3752.
Tervo, R. C., Palmer, G., & Redinius, P. (2004). Health professional
student attitudes towards people with disability. Clinical Rehabilitation, 18, 908915.
Velicer, W., & Jackson, D. (1990). Component analysis versus common
factor analysis: Some issues in selecting an appropriate procedure.
Multivariate Behavioral Research, 25, 128.
Vogt, W. P. (1999). Dictionary of statistics & methodology (2nd ed.).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Watson-Armstrong, L. A., ORourke, B., & Schatzien, J. (1994). Sexual abuse and persons with disabilities: A call for awareness. Journal
of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 25(1), 3642.
Widmer, E., Treas, J., & Newcomb, R. (1998). Attitudes toward nonmarital sex in 24 countries. Journal of Sex Research, 35(4), 349358.
Wong, D. W., Chan, F., Cardoso, E. D., Lam, C. S., & Miller, S. M.
(2004). Rehabilitation counseling students attitudes toward people
with disabilities in three social contexts: A conjoint analysis. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 47(4), 194204.
Yuker, H., & Block, J. (1986). Research with the Attitude Toward Disabled
Persons Scales (ATDP). Hempstead, NY: Hofstra University, Center
for the Study of Attitudes Toward Persons with Disability.