Attitudes towards ex-mental patients as a function of gender

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The major purpose of the present study was to examine the attitudinal differences between males and females toward males and females labeled as either an ex-mental patient or an ex-medical patient. Undergraduate students first read a personal history questionnaire which was identical in all experimental conditions except for the type of patient described under the heading of "Medical History," i.e., ex-mental or ex-medical patient. Subjects then watched an eleven-minute videotaped interview of a college student who was presented as the person described in the personal history questionnaire. These videotaped interviews were identical except for the sex of the interviewee. After viewing the videotapes, subjects completed a questionnaire composed of six bi-polar adjectives regarding the interviewee's adjustment, a questionnaire containing six questions about how the subject might interact with the interviewee, and an information questionnaire containing twelve questions based on the personal history questionnaire and twelve items from the videotaped interview. The position that the label ex-mental patient is a stigma and will produce negative attitudes toward those so labeled was clearly not supported by this research. While males displayed some negative attitudes toward individuals labeled as ex-mental patients, this was not a consistent effect. The notion that females do not display differential attitudes toward someone labeled as an ex-mental patient and someone not so labeled was supported. Several methodological issues possibly affecting the results were discussed.