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Date of Award

1986

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Medical Sciences

Supervisor

Professor H.I.J. van der Spuy

Abstract

Disabled children are increasingly being integrated into the regular school environment. Poor attitudes of able-bodied peers are a major obstacle to the social success of this process. Our knowledge about the determinants of attitudes and methods of improving attitudes has been hampered by the poor quality of available attitude measures. This thesis describes a new measure to overcome this problem.

The Chedoke-McMaster Attitudes Toward Children with Handicaps (CATCH) scale is a 36-item self-report measure of children's expressed attitude along three dimension; affective response, behavioral intent, and cognitive understanding. CATCH is intended for children in grades four to eight. Over 800 children have been involved in the testing of the first and then the revised draft of CATCH.

Children had no difficulty completing the scale. The items related to their everyday experiences. Descriptive aspects of CATCH were good. Total scores varied from 53 to 143 (possible interval of 0 to 144). The total sample mean was 99.1 with a standard deviation of 16.1. The measure was reliable with a coefficient alpha of .90 for the total score.

Factor analysis of CATCH revealed three factors accounting for 83% of the variance. Factor one and factor three were a mixture of affective and behavioral items and accounted for 62% and 6% of the variance, respectively. Factor two contained primarily cognitive items and accounted for 15% of the variance.

The construct validity of CATCH was established by testing its ability to discriminate groups based on previously hypothesized differences. Girls had significantly more positive attitudes than boys (104.0 versus 94.5; p=.001). Children who had a friend who was disabled; or who had contact with a disabled child in the last week had significantly better attitudes than children without disabled friends or contact. The mean CATCH score for friend was 106.2 versus 95.6 for no friend. For contact the mean score was 108.1 versus 97.0. Children who volunteered for a buddy program or who had previously taken part in a buddy program with a disabled child had significantly higher CATCH scores.

CATCH was used as the primary outcome measure in a randomized controlled trial of a buddy program between able-bodied and disabled children. A criterion score improvement occurred significantly more frequently in buddies than controls (43% versus 18%) p=.05). This intervention also appeared to have a significant effect on parental attitudes with buddy parents having a significant improvement compared to control parents.

These results demonstrate that CATCH is both a reliable and valid measure of children's expressed attitudes. While the limitations of this measure are recognized. CATCH will be extremely valuable in the study of attitude determinants and in the evaluation of interventions to improve attitudes.

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