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Attitudes towards lesbians and gay men and support for lesbian and gay human rights: does education have a liberalising effect?

Howting, Lorraine (2012) Attitudes towards lesbians and gay men and support for lesbian and gay human rights: does education have a liberalising effect? University of Salford.

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Abstract

It would be easy to assume that individuals pursuing a career in professions, such as psychology, counselling and social work, possess accepting attitudes towards lesbians and gay men. Or if not, then university education can be relied on to have a liberalising effect on any negative attitudes held by such individuals. However, evidence to support this premise has been mixed. The aim of this study was to investigate whether university education has a liberalising effect on students’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men, and whether education increases students’ levels of support for lesbian and gay human rights. A questionnaire was used to elicit the views of first and third (final) year undergraduate students (N = 124) studying psychology, counselling or social work courses. Results were compared and findings indicated no significant main effect of either year or course. Further statistical analysis revealed that participants who reported ‘regular contact’ with a lesbian or gay man had significantly more positive attitudes towards lesbians and gay men and higher levels of support for lesbian and gay human rights, than those participants who indicated no contact. Older participants were also found to be more positive than younger participants. The results show that education itself does not have a liberalising effect. However, factors such as a person having ‘contact’ with a group, or a person’s ‘age’, may be better predictors of support for that group. Limitations of the study and avenues for further inquiry are discussed.

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