College Students' Views of Gays and Lesbians: A Case for a Moral Exclusion Framework

By Brinson, Jesse; Denby, Ramona et al. | Journal of Human Services, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

College Students' Views of Gays and Lesbians: A Case for a Moral Exclusion Framework


Brinson, Jesse, Denby, Ramona, Crowther, Alicia, Brunton, Holly, Journal of Human Services


Introduction

The current emphasis on cultural diversity in helping profession programs suggests that academic disciplines such as counselor education, social work, psychology, human services, and criminal justice are training their students to be effective not only with a wide range of ethnically and racially diverse groups, but also with cultural groups, such as those with diverse sexual orientations (Haslam & Levy, 2006; Jenkins, Lambert, & Baker, 2009; Sue, 2003). Each of these disciplines has published professional standards, codes of ethics, professional values statements, and/or curriculum requirements related to training students in issues of diversity and cultural competence. Several helping profession education programs offer course material designed to mitigate their students' prejudices against racial groups and individuals with diverse sexual orientations.

Research has demonstrated that some helping professionals hold unfavorable views toward gay and lesbian (hereafter referred to as GL) individuals. For example, studies of the attitudes of professional social workers or social work students suggest the presence of belief systems associated with negative views toward lesbians and gays (Dongvillo & Ligon, 2001; Hyun & Johnson, 2001; Swank & Raiz, 2007). Additionally, research among criminal justice professionals, such as police officers, suggests a tendency of these professionals to minimize the seriousness of the incidents reported by lesbian and gay victims (Olivero & Murataya, 2001). Israel and Hackett (2004) found that counselors in training often report negative attitudes toward gay and lesbian clients. Furthermore, gay and lesbian clients often report dissatisfaction with their treatment as a result of ignorance or prejudice when working with counselors (Perez, Debora, & Bieschke, 2000). Psychologists with negative views of gays and lesbians are less likely to accept gay and lesbian clients in their caseload (Crawford, McCleod, Zamboni, & Jordan, 1999). Graduate students in psychology who endorse heterosexist gender roles tend to hold negative attitudes towards gays and lesbians (Barrett & McWhirter, 2002; Korfhage, 2006). Taken together, these findings suggest that some individuals in the professional disciplines may be wielding some prejudiced views concerning perceptions of human sexuality.

GL individuals are more visible than ever before, and it is thus likely that helping professionals in all disciplines will find themselves providing services to them in greater numbers. The attitudes and views that helping professionals hold toward gay and lesbian individuals will either positively or negatively affect their personal and professional effectiveness with this cultural group. GL individuals often look for affirming qualities in individuals with whom they work (Croteau, Anderson, & VanderWal, 2008).

The primary purpose of this study was to examine heterosexual undergraduate and graduate students' perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs towards gays and lesbians in order to understand the extent to which they possess feelings of homonegativity. Additionally, the authors assessed students' sociodemographic characteristics to determine the existence of correlations between those attributes and attitudes of inclusiveness. Finally, the authors' were interested in learning more about how completion of multicultural and diversity coursework influenced positive or negative behaviors towards gays and lesbians, especially when considering that the sample studied represents those professions whose job it is to mitigate the effects of discrimination and bias as they relate to diversity issues like sexual orientation.

Background

General Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors towards Gays and Lesbians

Although they are generally more accepted in today's society, three quarters of gays and lesbians report being the victim of prejudice based upon their sexual orientation in areas such as education, employment, housing, health insurance, and the military (Kaiser Family Foundation [KFF], 2001). …

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