The association between children's contact with people with disabilities and their attitudes towards disability: a systematic review

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Abstract

AIM

The aim of this review was to systematically review and synthesize observational evidence of associations between children's naturally varying contact with people with disabilities and their attitudes towards disability.

METHOD

A comprehensive search was conducted across multiple databases. Studies were included if they measured children's contact with people with disabilities and their attitudes towards disability. Qualitative research and studies that experimentally varied the amount of contact children had were excluded. Data were synthesized in a narrative review.

RESULTS

There were 35 studies that met the inclusion criteria: 22 of these reported a statistically significant association between contact with people with disabilities and more positive attitudes towards disability; two studies reported a negative association between contact and attitudes; and 11 studies reported no association. Incomplete reporting of the methods and results across studies limited the conclusions that could be drawn.

INTERPRETATION

Studies identified in this review generally indicate that children's contact with people with disabilities is associated with more positive attitudes towards disability. There is a need for more rigorous research to examine the effect of children's contact with people with disabilities on their attitudes towards disability.

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