Date of Award

1979

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Specialization

Clinical Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Al Berman

Abstract

Since the Mental Health Service Acts of 1963 and 1965, increasing numbers of psychiatric patients have been discharged back into communities for continuing treatment. Many communities have reacted negatively to this influx of ex-patients. Since the nature of the public's reaction affects the establishment of community facilities as well as the course of ex-patients' stays in the community, it is important for mental health professionals to better understand public reaction to mental patients.

Since multiple factors influence behavior, the primary purpose of the present investigation was to simultaneously investigate, through the use of a multivariate design, a variety of subject, situational and patient variables that affect people's reactions toward mental patients. A second purpose was to develop an instrument to measure people's behavior toward mental patients. A Behavioral-Intentions measure was developed to assess people's willingness to interact with hospitalized mental patients. In order to determine the usefulness of the Behavioral-Intention measure as a substitute for subjects' actual behavior, subjects' overt behavior was also recorded and the degree of the relationship between subjects' Behavioral-Intention scores and their overt behavior was assessed.

Subjects were 45 male and 45 female undergraduate students (Total= 90). Subjects' attitudes toward mental patients were assessed using the semantic differential. The Behavioral-Intention measure consisted of eight hypothetical situations in which subjects rated their willingness to interact with hospitalized mental patients on a six-point scale. Subjects were contacted by the experimenter two weeks after completing the Behavioral-Intention measure and asked to engage in one of the activities described on the Behavioral-Intention measure. Subjects' responses were recorded on the Overt Behavior measure.

The factors of subject sex and attitude toward mental patients, patient socio-economic status and the social intimacy and potential disclosure of the encounter were analyzed using a 3 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 analysis of variance. The Behavioral-Intention measure was employed as the dependent measure. The relationship between the Behavioral-Intention (BI) and Overt Behavior (OB) measure was assessed using Gamma, which indicates the probability of like ordering.

People were significantly more willing to meet with a patient in situations of low intimacy as compared to situations of high intimacy. People with positive attitudes were significantly more willing to meet with patients as compared to people with neutral or negative attitudes regardless of whether the meeting was to remain confidential or be publicized. When the meeting was to be publicized, only people with negative attitudes indicated significantly less willingness to meet with a patient as compared to when it would remain private.

Women indicated significantly less willingness to engage in an activity with patients when the activity would be publicized as compared to when it would remain confidential. Men however, showed no difference in their willingness to interact with patients depending on the potential disclosure of the meeting. No main effect sex difference was found. Finally, the socio-economic status of the patient did not influence people's willingness to interact with a patient.

In addition, men and women with neutral attitudes responded differently when contacted by the experimenter and asked to come in to meet a patient. Women, once contacted, were more likely to attend the meeting, whereas men were more likely to refuse to attend. The Gamma co-efficient of .411 was found for the relationship between the BI and OB measures. Although considerable variance is still unaccounted for by this relationship, this magnitude of association is noteworthy given the complexities of the social situation; it compares favorably with other BI-OB relationships reported in the literature and it indicates that the BI measure was a reasonable dependent measure for this study.

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