Public Attitudes Towards Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities as Measured by the Concept of Social Distance

Hélène Ouellette-Kuntz, Philip Burge, Hilary K. Brown, Elizabeth Arsenault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Background: While current practices strive to include individuals with intellectual disabilities in community opportunities, stigmatizing attitudes held by the public can be a barrier to achieving true social inclusion. Methods: A sample of 625 community members completed the Social Distance Subscale of the Multidimensional Attitude Scale on Mental Retardation. Results: Older and less educated participants held attitudes that reflected greater social distance. Participants who had a close family member with an intellectual disability and those who perceived the average level of disability to be 'mild' expressed less social distance. The limited variability in scores leads us to question our overall finding of very favourable attitudes towards social interaction with persons with intellectual disabilities. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that although certain demographic variables are still relevant in identifying social distance attitudes, the measurement of this construct requires revision to ensure a valid and sensitive reflection of the public's attitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-142
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • Developmental disability
  • Inclusion
  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental retardation
  • Social distance

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