Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Children--Attitudes; Children with disabilities--Education (Elementary);


Prior research has indicated that people react differently to a person with a physical disability than to a person without a disability, and that these different reactions vary with age and sex. While paper-and-pencil measures of reactions to persons with a disability have questionable validity, actual face-to-face interaction studies have yielded inconsistent results on measures of interaction time, eye contact, physical distance, and impression formation. Moreover, few studies have been conducted in which children were used as subjects. The purpose of the present study was to assess the behaviors of first- and second-grade children when reacting to peers of the same and opposite sex with and without an orthopedic disability.

The following hypotheses were proposed: (a) first- and second-graders would behave more positively toward a peer with an orthopedic disability than a peer without an orthopedic disability when the social expectations were obvious, (b) first- and second-graders would behave less positively toward a peer with an orthopedic disability than a peer without an orthopedic disability when the social expectations were subtle, and (c) females in the first and second grades would be more apt to attend to subtle social cues than males. Four children, two boys and two girls, between the ages of 6 and 8 were recruited to play the part of confederate. The confederate wore a metal leg brace and metal crutches when with half the subjects and appeared without the brace and crutches when with the other half. Subjects were 73 first- and second-graders (37 male and 36 female) from two schools in a suburban area. Subjects were assigned to eight cells arranged in a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design. Five upper-level psychology majors served as experimenters.

The following dependent measures were recorded: (a) whether the subject chose the same geometric design to color as the confederate, (b) number of M & Ms given to the confederate by the subject, (c) time the subject spent as thrower during a game, (d) total time, (e) number of words spoken by the subject, (f) references to the disability, and (g) ratings of the confederate by the subject on three questions indicating like or dislike. Because only one child made a reference to the disability, a Chi Square analysis was not performed. A Chi Square analysis yielded no significant differences in imitative behavior as indicated by design choice. An analysis of variance indicated that subjects in the disability condition spent significantly more time in the experimental situation than did subjects in the no-disability condition. The analysis of variance yielded no significant main effects or interactions for the measures of sharing behavior, time spent as thrower, number of words spoken, and ratings on three questions.

The present study only partially supported previous findings that people react differently to persons with a physical disability. None of the proposed hypotheses were supported. Five hypothetical explanations for the current results were discussed. Implications for future research were presented.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Specialist in Education


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

John W. Somervill


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Date Original


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