Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 1320–1327 | Cite as

Adult Attitudes Toward Behaviors of a Six-year-old Boy with Autism

  • Patrick ChambresEmail author
  • Catherine Auxiette
  • Carole Vansingle
  • Sandrine Gil
Original Paper


Parents report that their children with autism are often judged as undisciplined and rude (e.g., Peeters, Autism: From theoretical understanding to educational intervention, 1997). The phenomenon of a negative view of individuals with autism was studied here. Four behaviors (two problematic and two non-problematic) produced by a six-year-old child with autism were assessed on social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions by 88 adults in an “informed” or “uninformed” condition. The child was perceived more positively when identified as having autism. However, this effect was dependent on the type of behavior and the evaluative dimension used. The results indicate that the mere fact of being informed of a child’s disability triggers the use of a different standard of comparison than that employed to evaluate typical children (Mussweiler and Strack, J Pers Soc Psychol 78:1038–1052, 2000).


Autism Problematic and non-problematic behaviors Attitudes Standard of comparison 


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: A.P.A. Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, S. K., & Morgan, S. B. (2000). Children’s attitudes and behavioral intentions toward a peer presented as obese: Does a medical explanation for the obesity make a difference? Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 25, 137–145.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cambra, C. (1996). A comparative study of personality descriptors attributed to the deaf, the blind, and individuals with no sensory disability. American Annals of the Deaf, 141, 24–28.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Campbell, J. M., Ferguson, J. E., Herzinger, C. V., Jackson, J. N., & Marino, C. A. (2004). Combined descriptive and explanatory information improves peers’ perception of autism. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 25, 321–339.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carter, A. S., Davis, N. O., Klin, A., & Volkmar, F. R. (2005). Social development in autism. In F. R. Volkmar, R. Paul, A. Klin & D. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders: Vol. 1. Diagnosis, development, neurobiology, and behavior. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  6. Chambres, P., Bonin, D., & Grenier, K. (2001). Indirect and subliminal “mere exposure” effect: Implicit aspect of attitude formation. Current Psychology Letters: Behaviour, Brain and Cognition, 1, 85–100.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, R., Budesheim, T. L., McDonald, C. D., & Eymard, L. A. (1997). Weighing the evidence: Likability and trait attributions of peers as a function of behavioral characteristics, body weight, and sex. Child Study Journal, 27, 69–94.Google Scholar
  8. Cronbach, L. J. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika, 16, 297–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fichten, C. S., & Amsel, R. (1986). Trait attributions about college students with physical disability: Circumplex analyses and methodological issues. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16, 410–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fombonne, E. (2003). Epidemiological surveys of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders: An update. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 365–382.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fombonne, E. (2005). Epidemiology of autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66, 3–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Gordon, P. C., & Holyoak, K. J. (1983). Implicit learning and generalization of the “mere exposure effect”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 492–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grandin, T., & Scariano, M. M. (1986). Emergence: Labeled autistic. Navato, CA: Arena Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gray, D. E. (1993). Perception of stigma: the parents of autistic children. Sociology of Health and Illness, 15, 102–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gray, D. E. (2002). ‘Everybody just freezes. Everybody is just embarrassed’: Felt and enacted stigma among parents of children with high functioning autism. Sociology of Health and Illness, 24, 734–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hilton, D. J., Smith, R. H., & Alicke, M. D. (1988). Knowledge-based information acquisition: Norms and the functions of consensus information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 530–540.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hutzler, Y. (2003). Attitudes toward the participation of individuals with disabilities in physical activity: A review. QUEST, 55, 347–373.Google Scholar
  18. King, S. M., Rosenbaum, P., Armstrong, R. W., & Milner, R. (1989). An epidemiological study of children’s attitudes toward disability. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 31, 237–245.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mussweiler, T., & Strack, F. (2000). The use of category and exemplar knowledge in the solution of anchoring tasks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 1038–1052.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Peeters, T. (1997). Autism: From theoretical understanding to educational intervention. Philadelphia, PA, US: Whurr Publishers, Ltd.Google Scholar
  21. Popovich, P. M., Scherbaum, C. A., Scherbaum, K. L., & Polinko, N. (2003). The assessment of attitudes toward individuals with disabilities in the workplace. The Journal of Psychology, 137, 163–177.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ravaud, J.-F. (1994). L’insertion professionnelle des personnes handicapées. Évaluation: La place de l’approche expérimentale. In J.-F. Ravaud & M. Fardeau (Eds.), Insertion sociale des personnes handicapées: Méthodologies d’évaluation (pp. 247–260). Paris: CTNERHI-INSERM.Google Scholar
  23. Rohmer, O., Sahlani, P., & Louvet, E. (2000). Les affects dans la perception du handicap. Handicap – Revue de Sciences Humaines et Sociales, 86, 67–68.Google Scholar
  24. Schopler, E., Reichler, R. J., Bashford, A., Lansing, M. D., & Marcus, L. M. (1990). Individualized assessment of autistic and developmentally disabled children: Vol 1. PsychoEducational Profile Revised (PEP-R). Austin, TX: PRO-ED.Google Scholar
  25. Sigman, M., & Ruskin, E. (1999). Continuity and change in the social competence of children with autism, Down syndrome, and developmental delays. Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development, 64, 1–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Siperstein, G. N., Bak, J. J., & Gottlieb, J. (1977). Effects of group discussion on children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers. Journal of Educational Research, 70, 131–134.Google Scholar
  27. Swaim, K. F., & Morgan, S. B. (2001). Children’s attitudes and behavioral intentions toward a peer with autistic behaviors: Does a brief educational intervention have an effect? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 195–205.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tervo, R. C., Azuma, S., Palmer, G., & Redinius, P. (2002). Medical students’ attitudes toward persons with disability: A comparative study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 83, 1537–1542.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Williams White, S., Keonig, K., & Scahill, L. (2007). Social skills development in children with autism spectrum disorders: A review of the intervention research. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1858–1868.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. World Health Organization. (1992). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, ICD-10 (10th ed.). Geneva: W.H.O.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Chambres
    • 1
    Email author
  • Catherine Auxiette
    • 1
  • Carole Vansingle
    • 1
  • Sandrine Gil
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale et Cognitive, CNRS UMR 6024Université Blaise PascalClermont-Ferrand CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations