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Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2003 Dec;49(4):287-307.

A comparison of lay-beliefs about autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Department of Psychology, University College, London, UK.


The purpose of the two studies was to compare lay beliefs regarding the aetiology and treatment of autism (study 1) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (study 2). It was hypothesised that beliefs about autism would be based primarily on a biomedical theory while beliefs regarding OCD primarily on psychological notions of cause and cure. Parents' interviews were conducted in study 1 and revealed that, as hypothesised, parents hold predominantly biomedical views about autism. Participants (n = 92) completed both questionnaires that involved rating a range of theories of aetiology and treatment approaches for each disorder. Statistical analysis confirmed that lay beliefs about autism were primarily biomedical and beliefs about OCD were primarily psychological. Multiple regression analyses indicated that a range of individual difference factors (religiousness, interest in mental illness, age and knowledge of autism) predicted beliefs about the importance of some of the five factors derived from factor analysis of belief statements. The relevance of investigating lay beliefs of aetiology and treatment of psychiatric disorders for clinical practice is also highlighted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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