The effect of the mental illness label and characteristics of persons with mental illness on police officer attitudes and behavioral responses

Keating, Kathy E. (2013) The effect of the mental illness label and characteristics of persons with mental illness on police officer attitudes and behavioral responses. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The effect of the mental illness label and characteristics of persons with mental illness on police officers' attitudes and behavioral responses was examined. Specifically, officers (N = 112) from a Canadian police organization were presented randomly with one of eight hypothetical vignettes describing a male or female, suspect or victim, who was labeled as having a mental illness or for whom no information about mental health was provided. Participants completed self-report questionnaires assessing their attributions toward the individual in the vignette and how they would respond in such situations. Differences in officers' attitudes toward men and women were found on the help and pity subscales of the Attribution Questionnaire (AQ); different attitudes toward victims and suspects were obtained on the AQ danger, avoidance, credibility, and responsibility subscales; and, most notably, differences in attitudes toward an individual labeled with schizophrenia were found on all but the help subscale of the AQ. The latter finding, consistent with both attribution and labeling theories, reflected stereotypes and negative perceptions identified previously within the literature to be held by the general population. Results on the Predicated Behavioral Response Survey (PBRS) indicated that officers were significantly less likely to take action in a situation involving a victim with schizophrenia and more likely to take a report/file a complaint for a victim without a mental illness. Officers were also significantly more likely to arrest a suspect with schizophrenia. Gender of the victim or suspect had an inconsequential effect on behavioral responses. The implications of these findings for police training programs addressing mental health issues are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10770
Item ID: 10770
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 58-77).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: 2013
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Police--Attitudes; Victims of crimes--Mental health; Criminals--Mental health.

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