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Public stigmatisation of people with intellectual disabilities: a mixed-method population survey into stereotypes and their relationship with familiarity and discrimination.

  • Pelleboer-Gunnink, Hannah A1, 2
  • van Weeghel, Jaap1, 3, 4
  • Embregts, Petri J C M1
  • 1 Department of Tranzo, Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands. , (Netherlands)
  • 2 Dichterbij Innovation and Science, Gennep, The Netherlands. , (Netherlands)
  • 3 Phrenos Centre of Expertise, Utrecht, The Netherlands. , (Netherlands)
  • 4 Parnassia Group, Dijk en Duin Mental Health Centre, Castricum, The Netherlands. , (Netherlands)
Published Article
Disability and rehabilitation
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1630678
PMID: 31242402


Stigmatisation can negatively affect opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to participate in society. Stereotyping, a first step in the process of stigmatisation, has been insufficiently explored for people with intellectual disabilities. This study examined the general public's set of stereotypes that is saliently attributed to people with intellectual disabilities as well as the relationship of these stereotypes with discriminatory intentions and familiarity. A mixed-method cross-sectional survey within a representative sample of the Dutch population (n = 892) was used. Stereotypes were analysed with factor analysis of a trait-rating scale, and qualitative analysis of an open-ended question. The relationship between stereotypes and discrimination as well as familiarity with people with intellectual disabilities was explored through multivariate analyses. Four stereotype-factors appeared: "friendly", "in need of help", "unintelligent", and "nuisance". Stereotypes in the "nuisance" factor seemed unimportant due to their infrequent report in the open-ended question. "Friendly", "in need of help", "unintelligent" were found to be salient stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities due to their frequent report. The stereotypes did not relate to high levels of explicit discrimination. Yet due to the both positive and negative valence of the stereotypes, subtle forms of discrimination may be expected such as limited opportunities for choice and self-determination. This may affect opportunities for rehabilitation and might be challenged by protest-components within anti-stigma efforts.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATIONThere is currently sparse input for anti-stigma campaigns regarding people with intellectual disabilities.Anti-stigma interventions may benefit from adopting protest elements: education of the general public about inequalities that are experienced by people with intellectual disabilities.Especially support staff should be informed about the experienced and/or anticipated stigma of people with intellectual disabilities.As a way of opposing stigma, support staff should empower people for example by conducting strategies to disclose their (intellectual) disabilities.People with intellectual disabilities can challenge stigma by learning to tell a positive narrative on the lives they lead, using their strengths and coping with their limitations.

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