National policy relating to the support of people with learning disabilities has social inclusion as a key aim. The success of this aim is affected by the response of the general public. The author of this review set out to look at general population based research into awareness, attitudes and beliefs regarding learning disabilities from a review of studies published between 1990 and 2011. Seventy-five studies were identified, the majority of which were descriptive surveys of attitudes.
The conclusions drawn from such studies suggest that age, educational attainment and prior contact with someone with a learning disability were the main predictors of attitude. The effect of gender was found to be inconsistent in the studies found.
Twelve of the studies found looked at the impact of interventions designed to improve attitudes or awareness. The reviewer points out that the evidence is limited by the relatively small and unrepresentative samples used.
The author concludes that “overall, high quality research into general population attitudes to intellectual disability is limited. Public knowledge of intellectual disability and causal beliefs are particularly under-researched areas.”
The author calls for future research to include well designed studies to consider awareness, attitudes and beliefs in relation to stigma theory.
Public awareness, attitudes and beliefs regarding intellectual disability a systematic review, Scior K, in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32, 6, 2164-2182