Attitudes toward People with Disabilities in the Social Context of Dating and Marriage: A Comparison of American, Taiwanese, and Singaporean College Students. (Attitudes toward Disability)

Article excerpt

Studies on attitudes toward disability have continued to be an important research component in the field of rehabilitation counseling. Chubon (1992) stated that negative societal attitudes toward people with disabilities could be viewed as "invisible barriers" to successful rehabilitation. Chan et al. (1988, 2002) and Leung (1990, 1993) indicated that it is important to study attitudes toward people with disabilities because societal attitudes have been assumed to be a significant factor in defining the life experiences, opportunities, and help-seeking behaviors of people with disabilities. The constrictive effects of negative societal attitudes in preventing individuals with disabilities from mainstreaming into society are well documented in the rehabilitation literature (Arokiasamy, Rubin, & Roessler, 2001; Brodwin & Orange, 2002; Cook, 1998; DeLoach, 1994; Moore & Feist-Price, 1999; Orange, 2002; Yuker, 1994, 1995).

Assistive technology (AT) has helped people with disabilities in becoming full, participating members of society, including the critical area of employment. AT provides more viable options and choices, helps improve quality of life, independent functioning, and empowerment for people with disabilities. As such, changes brought about by technology improve the visibility and integration of people with disabilities and affect attitudes in positive ways. Through greater productivity and improved self-sufficiency, AT replaces or extends capacities to cope with social, educational, vocational, and daily living demands (Reed, 2002; Rubin & Roessler, 2001).

Research studies on attitudes toward disability are numerous. Yet, little has been published in the area of dating and marriage. For full integration in society, more open attitudes need to exist in all areas, including those of an interpersonal nature. Often, researchers have found that societal attitudes have become more positive in the vocational and educational arenas, but not within the personal and social domains. Little research has been conducted to measure societal attitudes toward dating and marriage of persons with disabilities. By assessing these attitudes, researchers can determine how negative attitudes are toward dating and marriage, and assess ways to modify these attitudes.

The majority of research on attitudes toward disability has a focus on: (a) psychometric assessment of attitudes toward persons with disabilities; (b) personal and demographic correlates of attitudes toward persons with disabilities; and (c) strategies for changing attitudes toward people with disabilities (Grand, Bernier, & Strohmer, 1982; Moore & Feist-Price, 1999). Most studies were conducted in western countries, and the generalizability of these results to other countries is relatively unknown (Chan et al., 1988, 2002).

As many of the Pacific Rim countries with a high concentration of Chinese residents (e.g., Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore) have become more affluent through industrialization during the past three decades, the governments of these countries have begun to set policy objectives to improve and expand rehabilitation services. To foster more positive societal attitudes toward the provision of rehabilitation services in Chinese communities, it is imperative for researchers to explore ways to uncover factors influencing attitude formation (both latent and manifest), which could then be used to form the basis for modifying negative attitudes toward people with disabilities in Asian countries.

Asian Americans, including Americans of a Chinese descent, represent a large minority group in the United States, and many are recent immigrants or first generation Americans. According to Census figures, in 1990, almost one in four Americans had African, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American ancestry, in contrast to only one in five in 1980 (Leung, 1993; Yang, Leung, Wang, & Shim, 1996). …