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Change in attitudes toward mental hospital ward aides and beliefs about mental illness over time of hospitalized mental patients McDonald, James Timothy

Abstract

In recent years there have been several studies concerning themselves with such topics as mental patients' attitudes toward hospital personnel and mental patients' beliefs about mental illness. However, these studies are not without fault. They have been strictly empirical in approach, with no theoretical framework from which to predict and/or explain the results they have obtained. These studies also have failed to control for potentially important variables such as whether a patient, has had previous admissions to a mental hospital. The present study attempted to surmount these shortcomings. Drawing upon Heider's (1946) balance theory, it was predicted that if the patients' attitudes toward the staff changed in a positive direction (as a study by Reznikoff, et al. [I960] suggests is the case), those beliefs about mental illness held by the patients which were dissimilar to the staff's beliefs would converge toward those beliefs held by the staff. This study also controlled for the no prior admissions ---prior admissions variable, a variable Wolfensberger's (1956) study suggests may be important. The Semantic Differential was used to measure the patients' attitudes toward the staff while the Information Questionnaire (Nunnally, 1957, 1961) was used to measure their beliefs about mental illness. These two questionnaires were administered twice: the first time being no longer than four days after admission to the hospital; the second time being approximately three weeks after the first administration. The results of this study indicated that patients' attitudes toward the staff (aides in this particular study) do increase in a favorable direction, but this had no influence on the patients' beliefs about mental illness as had been predicted. The patients' beliefs about mental illness did not change toward the staffs' (aides) beliefs but rather remained the same over the two testings. Possible reasons for the failure of this study to support the prediction were discussed. Also, the validity of the Information Questionnaire was seriously questioned.

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