Effects of the Special Olympics World Games on attitudes of nonhandicapped children towards persons with mental retardation

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Sociology of|Psychology, Social|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




Improving the attitudes and behavioral intentions of nondisabled children toward peers with mental retardation remains a priority for a wide range of policy makers and service providers. Naturalistic interventions such as the Special Olympics may have an effect on these attitudes and intentions, but that effect is not understood. In the current study, the Fishbein and Aijzen (1975) model of the attitude-behavior relationship is used to identify the distinct dimensions of attitude and behavioral intention. The attitudes and friendship intentions over 1,000 fourth and fifth graders were examined before and after the occurrence of the 1995 Special Olympics World Games. Subjects were asked to complete a questionnaire about their prior exposure to persons with mental retardation, their attitudes toward peers with mental retardation, their friendship intentions toward peers with mental retardation, and their participation in the Games. Results showed that attitudes improve while friendship intentions become more restricted. In addition, children became more positive about including peers with mental retardation in school activities. Implications for Special Olympics and for future programming are discussed. ^