Attitudes toward children with emotional disorders

Joseph Allen Hirsch, Pace University


While the literature is replete with studies assessing opinions about mental illness, attitudes of professionals who work with children have not been well characterized. Only recently has a brief scale, the Child OMI, been developed to elucidate attitudes toward mentally ill children (Greenbaum, 1994). The present study was undertaken to delineate the opinions of professionals who sit on Committees for Special Education (CSE) and their non-school-based colleagues. A new self-report Likert-scale survey, Hirsch Opinions about Psychological and Emotional disorders in children (HOPE), was developed. A 73-item pool was generated. Fifty-eight of these items are unique and reflect multiple theoretical latent variables. A stringent cutoff criterion reduced the item pool to 42 questions that were included on the HOPE. Three-hundred fifty-three respondents returned HOPE questionnaires. Three-hundred one questionnaires with responses to all 42 items were factor analyzed. The HOPE was shown to be a reliable instrument with very good internal consistency (alpha = 0.81). Face and content validities of the HOPE were suggested by high interjudge reliability (r = 0.9) and approval by 2 teams of experts. Construct or criterion validity was suggested by known-groups discriminant properties. Principal components analysis and scree plot revealed two factors with acceptable internal consistency: a 24-item Biases factor (alpha = 0.85) and a 9-item Dynamic Clinical factor (alpha = 0.61). ANOVA of factor scores revealed that psychologists and social workers were less$\sp1$ biased than teachers and students. Social workers, collectively, were the least biased professionals. Clinical social workers were more treatment oriented than were school social workers. Psychologists endorsed a dynamic view and were more likely to favor clinical treatment than were teachers. Psychodynamically-oriented psychologists were less biased than cognitive-behavioral or social psychologists but were not more acceptant of a dynamic interpretation or inclined to treat than were other clinicians. Neither professional experience nor gender affected attitudes. Teachers' placement (high school vs. junior high school or elementary school) had no affect. Analysis by item yielded similar findings to differences between groups on factor scores. These data may provide insight into the decision making of professionals that sit on CSEs. This in turn has implications for the placement and treatment of children. Another potential use for the HOPE is as a screening instrument prior to or subsequent to selection of individuals who may work with children. ftn$\sp1$Unless otherwise stated, all references to less or more indicate significant differences.

Subject Area

Psychological tests|Personality|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Hirsch, Joseph Allen, "Attitudes toward children with emotional disorders" (1995). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9530180.



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