Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Karen A. Christoff

Second Advisor

Kirsten Dellinger

Third Advisor

John Young

Abstract

Much attention has been paid to the social behavior of individuals with Intellectual Disability (IDs) due in part to its relevance to quality of life. Deficiencies in social skills are common among persons with IDs and may include problem behaviors such as withdrawal, aggression, and difficulty communicating with others and social skills training programs have been developed to improve social functioning. However, these programs have generally assumed that the social behavior of persons with IDs should be the same as that of individuals without IDs, yet, relatively little is known about the nature of the relationships among individuals with IDs and what behaviors are associated with having friends within this population. The lack of research may be attributable, at least in part, to difficulties with introspection and reporting that characterize ID. Nonetheless, social relationships between individuals with IDs may offer the individuals an opportunity for more egalitarian relationships and improved quality of life. The current study investigated the relationships between individuals with IDs and behavioral correlates of peer acceptance in participants' group home and sheltered workshop. Participants include 123 individuals with IDs who live and work in the same private residential facility. Participants completed sociometric interviews; symptom focused self-report measures, and ratings of the importance of different social relationships. Their social behavior was observed by trained observers in their home and their workplace as well. Direct support staff and work supervisors also completed similar self-report measures and sociometric interviews as a means of comparison. Results indicate that resident and staff responses to all measures were largely consistent with each other. Specifically, sociometric ratings and ratings of social importance were consistent between staff and resident respondents in each setting. Different behaviors were associated with peer acceptance across settings. Peer acceptance was associated with rates of nominations for Like to live with, Not like to live with, and Mean in the home and Nice, Least Popular, and Best Friend at work. Social status groups differed on rates of positive nominations across settings with popular peers receiving nominations for other positive categories as would be predicted by the literature in the home but not at work. Interestingly, social preference and impact were not associated with the frequency or appropriateness of social behavior in either setting. These findings aid in understanding social networks and behavior of persons with IDs which may ultimately inform clinical treatment of social dysfunction.

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