Attitudes Toward the Sexuality of Persons With Physical Versus Psychiatric Disabilities

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Abstract

Objective:

Research has shown that attitudes toward different disabilities form a hierarchy, with observers exhibiting more positive attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities than toward persons with psychiatric disabilities. In addition, investigations of attitudes toward persons with a disability indicate that they are often perceived as asexual. The current study examined whether involvement of persons with either a physical or psychiatric disability in a sexual relationship moderates the relation between their type of disability and attitudes toward them.

Method:

After reading one of six randomly assigned vignettes, university students (N = 195) filled out a semantic differential-based attitude scale (Katz & Shurka, 1977; Kravetz, Katz, & Albez, 1994). The six vignettes consisted of a male with a physical disability/with a psychiatric disability/without a disability, who was either involved/not involved in a sexual relationship.

Results:

An interaction between type of disability and involvement in a sexual relationship was found for two subscales of the attitudes scale, occupation and intelligence. Involvement in a sexual relationship was found to generate more positive attitudes when the target person had a physical disability but more negative attitudes when he had a psychiatric disability.

Conclusions:

Involvement in a sexual relationship seems to work in favor of persons with a physical disability because of the association of such a relationship with normality and adaptation. However, attributing such a relationship to persons with a psychiatric disability seems to be stigmatic.

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