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Contact with the Mentally Ill and Perceptions of How Dangerous They Are
Bruce G. Link and Francis T. Cullen
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 289-302
Published by: American Sociological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136945
Page Count: 14
You can always find the topics here!Topics: Mental disorders, Psychiatric hospitals, Friendship, Social behavior, Educational standards, Regression coefficients, Mental health, Regression analysis, Social perception, Fear
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Jones et al. (1984) proposes that contact between a "marked" and an "unmarked" person will modify the preconceptions each has about the stigmatized condition and about its impact on subsequent social interaction. To test this notion, we used two general population samples–one drawn from Macomb, Illinois (N = 153) and the other from Cincinnati, Ohio (N = 152)--and found a statistically significant inverse association between contact with mental patients' perceptions of how dangerous they are. We find that increased contact is associated with reduced fear among the old and the young, the educated and the less educated, and males and females. Two explanations are possible: (1) contact reduces fear; or (2) perceptions of danger influence the extent to which individuals interact with the mentally ill. We show that when contact is generated by external circumstances so that pre-existing attitudes are unlikely to have brought it on, contact is associated with reduced fear. We interpret this as consistent with the conceptual scheme offered by Jones et al. The implications are optimistic in that former patients may be able to influence attitudes of those they interact with. We note, however, changing others' attitudes may prove problematic in a number of ways for former patients. Finally we indicate some possible policy implications that our results suggest.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior © 1986 American Sociological Association