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Felicia Meyer & William Bukowski Concordia University, Montreal, Canada 4 th International Stigma Conference January 23 rd, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Felicia Meyer & William Bukowski Concordia University, Montreal, Canada 4 th International Stigma Conference January 23 rd, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Felicia Meyer & William Bukowski Concordia University, Montreal, Canada 4 th International Stigma Conference January 23 rd, 2009

2 Childrens views of mental health and illness have received far less research attention than: the views of adults (Wahl, 2002; Watson, Miller & Lyons, 2005) childrens understanding of physical health (e.g. Bibace & Walsh, 1980)

3 Peer relationships are an important part of childrens socialization (Rubin, Bukowski & Parker, 2006; Sullivan, 1953). Children who have socio-emotional and/or behavioural problems are more likely to be excluded or rejected (Deater-Deckard, 2001; Hay et al., 2004). Less is known about how children develop attitudes towards peers with such problems (Hennessy, Swords & Heary, 2007).

4 Purpose To integrate research on childrens perceptions of others, understanding of psychopathology and peer relationships. Specific aim To assess childrens understanding of mental illness so as to learn why children with problems may be excluded from their peer group.

5 96 fifth and sixth graders 46 girls, 50 boys Mean age = 11 years old Community-based sample Four classes in a public elementary school in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

6 Children read four vignettes describing hypothetical boys/girls with different forms of psychopathology o Depression and conduct disorder o based on work by Hennessy & Heary (2003) o ADHD and anxiety o based on DSM-IV-TR (2004) symptomatology Order of presentation of vignettes and gender of hypothetical peer were randomized across participants.

7 Although Clara usually does ok in school, she sometimes thinks that she is stupid and no good at anything. Clara doesnt smile much and she doesnt enjoy things as much as she used to. She spends a lot of time feeling sad and is rarely happy. She has little energy and often feels tired during the day.

8 1) Following each description, participants were asked: Why do you think Clara is like this? A list of reasons explaining why a child would have this disorder was presented. Participants rated each reason according to whether it explained why the child would have this disorder. 2) Participants were then asked to imagine that the child described in the vignette was in their class and to rate how much they would like the hypothetical peer.

9 Why do you think (hypothetical peer) is like this? Family experiences (3 items) …because of how her parents brought her up. Peer experiences (3 items) …because he has no friends. Psychological states (3 items) …because she thinks other children are better than her. Physical conditions (2 items) …because there is something wrong with his brain. Inability to control (3 items) …because he cant control how he feels. Lack of effort (2 items) …because she doesnt try hard enough to: - relax (anxiety) - be happy (depression) - behave herself (conduct disorder) - pay attention and to focus (ADHD)

10 To examine… 1) How children explained the etiology of four forms of psychopathology. 2) How much children liked each of the four hypothetical peers. 3) Whether liking of the hypothetical peer was associated with childrens use of reasons to explain psychopathology.

11 Children used different explanations to describe the etiology of the four disorders. Lack of effort was rated as the most likely explanation across the four disorders. more for externalizing disorders (ADHD and conduct disorder) than for internalizing disorders (anxiety and depression)

12 Ratings of Reasons for Each Disorder ADHD Anxiety Depression Conduct Disorder

13 Ratings of Lack of Effort for Each Disorder ADHD Anxiety Depression Conduct Disorder

14 Liking Ratings of Hypothetical Peers with Symptoms of Psychological Disorders Not at all A little Somewhat ADHD Anxiety Depression Conduct Disorder

15 Liking Liking Ratings as a Function of Use of Reasons

16 Differential use of reasons was found to affect the level of liking of the hypothetical peer. Attributing disorder to o family reasons, psychological reasons or lack of effort was associated with lower levels of liking. o reasons related to peer experiences was associated with higher levels of liking.

17 1) Childrens beliefs about the causes of psychological problems are multidimensional (incorporate individual and environmental factors) ascribe particular importance to lack of effort. 2) Childrens liking of their peers depends in part on the symptoms of psychopathology exhibited by peers. 3) Childrens liking of their peers depends in part on the reasons they use to explain the peers psychological problem.

18 The findings of this study show a link between childrens understanding of psychological disorders and their affective response to a hypothetical peer with a disorder. have implications for how children perceive and respond to actual peers with psychological difficulties. Recent work points to the importance of childrens beliefs about peers personal responsibility for psychological problems (e.g., Corrigan et al., 2005; Hennessy, Swords & Heary, 2007).

19 Future research should examine the possible peer rejection and stigma experienced by children with such problems. Further analyses will examine hypothetical helping childrens liking of hypothetical peers versus actual peers with symptoms of psychopathology This work can contribute to the development of prevention and intervention programs targeting childrens understanding and possible stigmatization of mental illness.

20 Participants, parents and elementary school staff Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC) Concordia University Research Chair to W. M. Bukowski South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust Charitable Funds

21 Thank you! Questions? Comments? For more information:


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