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Psychol Rep. 1994 Feb;74(1):51-6.

Children's attitudes toward the mentally ill: an eight-year longitudinal follow-up.

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Milton H. Erickson Institute of Northern Illinois, Chicago 60645.


In 1986, Weiss reported the measurement of the attitudes of 577 children of elementary school age toward mental illness and mentally ill persons relative to other stigmatized groups on a projective measure of social distance. It was concluded that attitudes toward deviant groups were evidenced by Kindergarten and did not change appreciably with increasing age or grade. Eight years later, 35 of the previously examined 65 Kindergarten students were still enrolled in the district. Parental permission to repeat the evaluation was received for 34 of those students. The results of this longitudinal research were remarkably similar to the results in the original cross-sectional research, again leading to the conclusion that attitudes toward the mentally ill become quite stable and enduring by the time a child enters Kindergarten. Only one stigmatized group, mentally retarded persons, significantly changed in terms of social distance and interpersonal attraction toward being more acceptable.

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