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Exploring the need for qualitative research in the investigation of attitudes towards relationships with people with learning disabilities

Pope, Kate (2011) Exploring the need for qualitative research in the investigation of attitudes towards relationships with people with learning disabilities. Loughborough University.

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Abstract

Psychological research in to attitudes towards disability has mainly been conducted using quantitative methods. By reducing attitudes to single scores, these studies overlook the complexity of beliefs about disability and the ways in which people present them. The current study takes a qualitative approach to the investigation of attitudes towards relationships with persons with learning disabilities. Focus groups elicited rich responses in a more naturalistic environment, allowing for in-depth analysis by two methods. Grounded theory highlighted three themes of what constitutes these attitudes: disability is seen as a burden on relationships, participants perceive disparity in emotional complexity, and the productivity requirements of the context predict the nature of attitudes. Conversation analysis, on the other hand, depicted that evaluations are worked up for interactional purposes due to processes of alignment – thus questioning the traditional assumption that performed attitudes reflect an underlying, cognitive state. The findings of the two analytic methods, alongside those of existing research, are discussed in relation to their contribution to our holistic understanding of attitudes towards disability.

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