Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and general learning disabilities (LD) are common difficulties for British primary school children. It has been found that characteristics associated with these difficulties can result in negative attitudes and stigma from other children, causing problems with peer relationships. Furthermore, problematic peer relations can intensify the difficulties associated with these disorders.
Packages such as ‘Tackling Stigma: A Practical Toolkit’ aim to combat stigma in schools. However, these packages have not been based on evidence regarding children's attitudes towards different disorders. This study aims to explore children's attitudes towards ADHD, depression and LD from a conative (measure of social distance) and cognitive (measure of positive or negative attributes ascribed to a person) perspective.
Participants were 273 children (M= 9.2 years). Vignettes were used to describe a child with ADHD, depression, or LD or a ‘normal’ child. The Shared Activities Questionnaire was utilised to assess conative attitudes, and the Adjective Checklist was utilised to assess cognitive attitudes.
Results showed that children generally displayed more negative attitudes to vignettes describing mental health difficulties (MHD) (ADHD and depression) than LD. Children had more negative attitudes towards the ADHD (externalising disorder) vignette than the depression vignette (internalising disorder). Younger children had more positive conative attitudes than older children. Those who had previous contact with children with ADHD, depression and LD had more positive attitudes.
These findings can enhance current stigma reduction interventions through contributing a deeper understanding of children's attitudes towards the most common MHD and LD in childhood.