Online Program

School- and family-based socioeconomic status, attitudes about mental illness, and social desirability bias

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 3:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.

Jo C. Phelan, PhD, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY
Melissa DuPont-Reyes, MPH, Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York, NY
Kris Painter, PhD, LCSW, MHMR of Tarrant County, Forth Worth, TX
Kay Barkin, Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County, Fort Worth, TX
Bruce Link, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York, NY
People of higher socioeconomic status (SES) express more positive attitudes toward people with mental illness (PWMI). However, it is possible that higher SES individuals, influenced by “political correctness,” may express but not actually hold more positive attitudes. Previous studies are based on explicitly stated attitudes, which are vulnerable to social desirability bias. In this study, we have several types of data that should be affected to varying degrees by social desirability bias: closed-ended responses about attitudes; open-ended descriptions of “mental illness;” closed-ended responses about behaviors toward PWMI; and implicit (unconscious) attitudes toward PWMI. There is substantial socioeconomic variability in our sample, both at individual and school levels. Previous studies of SES and mental-illness attitudes have been based exclusively on individual-level SES. However, there may be important SES-related socialization taking place in schools as well as in families, and our study provides an opportunity to assess whether school-level SES shapes children's attitudes above and beyond SES-related socialization occurring in their families. We examine the impact of individual- and school-level SES on the full range of mental-illness attitudes and behaviors measured in the study, to assess whether SES is related to attitudes and behaviors overall, and more specifically whether there are patterns in these associations such that, for example, SES differences are more pronounced for explicit attitude measures than for the other measures. Because of the range of measures included, this analysis will make an important contribution to understanding whether SES increases acceptance of PWMI or only the verbal expression of acceptance.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain why people might express more positive attitudes about mental illness than they actually hold. Compare the effects of school-level SES and family-level SES on attitudes about mental illness. Assess whether SES is more strongly related to some attitude measures (e.g., explicit closed-ended responses) than others (e.g., implicit attitudes).

Keyword(s): Social Class, Mental Illness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Phelan is an internationally known expert in stigma and most of her research has focused on stigma associated with mental illness (MI). She has conducted several federally funded studies focusing on MI stigma. She has published numerous theoretical and research articles on MI stigma in journals such as the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science and Medicine, Psychiatric Services, American Journal of Public Health, and the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.