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Retarded adults in the community : an investigation of neighborhood attitudes and concerns Willms, Jon Douglas


The purpose of the study was to explore the nature of public attitudes toward community based residential facilities for retarded adults, and thus obtain data which would aid administrators in the planning of group homes and the development of community awareness programs. The study was directed to determining the factors that affect attitudes toward integration, knowledge about mental retardation, and the specific concerns that people have regarding the presence of retarded adults in their community. Four areas of concern were determined: personal safety concerns, economic concerns, concerns about the retarded adult being a nuisance in the community, and concerns about the actual operation of the group home. In order to determine these areas of concern an open-ended questionnaire was administered to twenty people from middle and middle-upper class areas of a large urban centre. Their responses were analyzed to develop a Likert-type test which could measure the extent of four separate areas of concern. A test of knowledge about mental retardation was also developed and validated using four known groups. These two tests, together with a test of attitudes toward integration were administered to a random sample of seventy-five adults living in the vicinity of a community based residential facility housing thirty-six retarded adults. Respondents were blocked according to their sex and their proximity to the group home. A brief interview was conducted with all respondents to determine their previous contact with retarded people, the number of children in their home, their permanence of residence, socio-economic status, age, first language, level of education, religion, and religiosity. The study showed that the main concern was not related to how retarded people might affect their neighbors; rather, to issues pertaining to how the group home was being operated. Safety and economic concerns were of secondary importance; nuisance concerns were least important. Some of these concerns were less for those who lived closer to the group home or for those who had previous contact with the retarded. Knowledge about mental retardation was correlated to attitudes toward integration and the concerns variables. It was not possible to relate attitudes toward integration or the degree of concerns to age, religion, sex, or any other variable related to the neighbors' characteristics. Implications for group home planners in establishing residences and developing community awareness programs have been outlined, as well as suggestions for further research.

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