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J Ment Defic Res. 1990 Apr;34 ( Pt 2):143-55.

A study of doctors' and parents' attitudes to people with mental handicaps.

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Department of Community Medicine, Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School, London, England.


The attitudes to people with mental handicaps held by a group of parents of children with mental handicaps and a group of doctors with some involvement in this area were compared using postal questionnaires. Doctors' estimates of how parents would respond were also compared with parents' responses and doctors' own responses. Four Likert-type scales were refined covering attitudes towards the effect on the family, the place in society of people with mental handicaps, their quality of life, and independence and autonomy. Results indicated that parents had more positive attitudes than doctors except with regard to independence and autonomy, to which doctors had the most positive attitudes. Doctors were aware that parents were likely to see the effect on the family in a more positive light, and independence less positively, than themselves. However, they underestimated the degree of positivity of parents about the place of people with mental handicaps in society, and their quality of life, to the extent that they expected parents to be significantly less positive about quality of life than they themselves were, whilst parents in fact proved significantly more positive. The differing perspectives and experiences of parents and doctors are discussed and some suggestions made of ways in which doctors' appreciation of the parental perspective could be developed in an attempt to facilitate sympathetic communication between them.

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