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Predictors of disability-related attitudes: considering self-esteem, communication apprehension, contact, and geographic location

Authors Magsamen-Conrad K, Tetteh D, Lee YI

Received 20 May 2016

Accepted for publication 28 July 2016

Published 2 December 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 329—338


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Kate Magsamen-Conrad,1 Dinah Tetteh,2 Yen-I Lee3

1Department of Communication, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, 2Department of Communication, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR, 3Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

Abstract: Individuals’ attitudes about persons with disability (PwD) strongly affect differently-abled persons’ quality of life and position in society. Some research offers support for the ability of systematic, supported, longitudinal contact between different groups of individuals to improve attitudes. College campuses, in particular, offer a potentially useful arena in which to facilitate this type of contact. This study explored contextual factors (eg, geographic region, biological sex) and predictors of disability-related attitudes among a college student population to determine strategies for course-based intervention design (eg, as community-engaged or service-learning initiatives). Surveying participants from universities in two regions of the United States, we found that self-esteem, audience-based communication apprehension, and contact with PwD explain more than 50% of the variance in disability-related attitudes. Further, we found that geographic location affects both self-esteem and audience-based communication apprehension (communicating/interacting with PwD). We discuss the implications for community engagement and/or service learning and highlight the importance of partnerships among relevant community stakeholders, including university faculty, students, and staff.

Keywords: community engagement, service learning, intervention, regional culture, PwD, intergroup, quality of life, college students, community partnerships

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