Thursday, March 17, 2011

Demographic and Disability Variables and Identity

This is a further analysis of the data described in the previous post. Here, I'm asking the questions of whether gender, race, sexual orientation or disability variables affect a person's view of their disability. (Are certain disabilities viewed more negatively than others? Does being the target of other forms of discrimination affect one's view of disability?)



Data on ethnicity was unavailable for 7 people. Five of them were because I hadn't added that question yet, and the other two declined the question (one left it blank and one answered 'human'). Of the others, 74% were white (I can't seem to get SPSS not to count the non-answers in the percentages, by the way). The 6 non-white people included three 'other' (mostly mixed-race), 1 middle-eastern, 1 native american and 1 black. Due to the small number of non-white people, I clumped them together as a single group.

Since there were two groups, I ran T-tests for Preencounter2, Internalization2 and Identity Subtype by ethnic category. Equal variances were found for all three variables. Preencounter2 and subtype showed no significant differences, but Internalization2 differed at p = .041. Looking at the means showed that whites (mean .6933) scored higher on this scale than non-whites (mean .4000).


For 6 people, data on gender was unavailable. Of the others, 47% were female, 37% were male and 2 chose 'other' (one with multiple personalities that differed in gender identity, and one biologically female but 'genderqueer'). Due to the rarity of 'other' responses, I dropped them from further analysis (it may be useful to do a further study to see if atypical gender identity affects disability identity).

No significant differences by gender were found on T-test of Preencounter2, Internalization2 or Identity Subtype.

Sexual Orientation

Data on sexual orientation was unavailable for 6 people. Of the others, 51% were straight, 14% were gay, 10% were bisexual, 8% were asexual and 2 identified as 'other' (one 'queer', one didn't clarify). I decided to combine gay and bisexual into one group and asexual and other into another group, reflecting which atypical orientations are widely recognized.

Since there were three categories, I ran a one-way ANOVA, using the Bonferroni and Scheffe post-hoc tests. The variables analyzed were the same as before. No significant differences were found.

General population estimates usually put the heterosexual population as a larger majority than they were in my study. Remafedi et al (1992) found 88% of their adolescent sample were heterosexual, and Smith (1991) found 80% of US adults were heterosexual. Ingudomnukul et al (2007) found that autistic women were significantly less likely than non-autistic women to be heterosexual (70% heterosexual as opposed to 97%), with bisexuality (13%) and asexuality (17%) being the next most common orientations.

So I decided to see if orientation differed depending on whether or not the person had an autism spectrum condition. I ran a T-test and found that there was no significant differences, though the test for equal variances approached significance (p = .075). This is likely a matter of sample size, since the number of autistic (26) and non-autistic (17) subjects both fell below the recommended sample size of 30 or more.

Disability Variables

As mentioned before, my sample included a lot of autistics. Here's the frequencies for each disability category (some had multiple disabilities, so percentages total more than 100%):
  • Autism Spectrum (65%)
  • Psychiatric Disorder (27%)
  • Chronic Illness (25%)
  • LD/ADHD (22%)
  • PTSD or other trauma-related condition (22%)
  • Physical Disability (20%)
  • Epilepsy or other episodic condition (16%)
  • Deaf/Hard of hearing (8%)
  • Blind/Visually Impaired (6%)
  • Developmental Delay (4%)
Six individual indicated a disability not on this list, including 2 with dyspraxia, 1 with asthma, 1 with multiple personalities, 1 with a sexual disorder and 1 who didn't know what disability he had. The last one was the only one who didn't also indicate something on the above list.

Number of disabilities ranged from 1-7, with 47% having only one disability. Note that if the person had multiple disabilities in the same category (for example, generalized anxiety and agoraphobia), these were counted as a single disability.

I also asked them, if they had multiple disabilities, to indicate which one they'd be focusing on while replying to the survey. One person decided to answer based on being 'multi' and 5 others with multiple disabilities left this question blank, so those 6 were classed as multi on this variable. In total, 55% were discussing autism, 12% were discussing multiple disabilities, 10% were discussing a physical disability, 6% were discussing a psychiatric disorder, 4% were discussing a chronic illness, and one each were discussing a developmental delay, deafness, epilepsy, learning disability/ADHD, an unknown disability and a trauma-related condition.

For the six most common disabilities, I ran T-tests specifically for those conditions. Significant differences were found for autism and LD/ADHD only.

For autism, difference in variances was found for Preencounter2 and Identity Subtype, both showing much less variation among autistics than non-autistics. Those same two categories also differed on means, with non-autistics scoring higher on Preencounter2 and being more likely to be Unclassified/Preencounter Subtype. So, compared to people with mixed disabilities, autistics may be more positive about their disability on average. This fits what I've seen anecdotally, but has not previously been studied. (Interestingly, the opposite result has been found in parents of kids with disabilities, for example in Weiss [2002], where parents of autistic kids tend to have more negative views about their child's disability.)

For LD/ADHD, no significant differences in variance were found, but Preencounter2's variance approached significance (p = .077). Preencounter2 was also significantly higher in those with LD/ADHD, at p = .047. It's interesting to speculate about why this might be, especially since this is a sharp contrast with my findings about autism, despite high functioning autism* causing similar impairment to LD/ADHD. One big difference is that many high functioning autistics do well academically (Griswold et al [2002]), so maybe academic achievement is a more important predicter of disability identity than social functioning. (Maybe social functioning is more readily seen as dependent on other people as well as oneself.)

I ran a two-way ANOVA of Preencounter2 by autism and LD/ADHD to analyze this further. I found main effects for autism (p = .003) and LD/ADHD (p = .022) but no interaction (p = .103).

Then I analyzed the relationship between the three variables and total number of disabilities, using bivariate correlation. No significant relationships were found.

Disability discussed was next. For this, I lumped psychiatric disorder, chronic illness and the conditions dicussed by one individual each into an 'other' category, so I had autism, physical disability, multiple disabilities and other. I ran a one-way ANOVA on those four groups.

No significant differences were found, surprising since autism was observed to be associated with more positive attitudes. However, it's important to note that the percentage of my subjects who were on the autistic spectrum was higher than the percentage who chose to discuss autism, so this may indicate that multiply-disabled autistic individuals (who may have discussed autism, another disability, or 'multi') often viewed their disabilities positively.

* I have no way of knowing the functioning level of my autistic subjects, and some may have been lower functioning (eg assistive communication users), but on average it's probably reasonable to assume that most were high functioning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Disability Identity Questionnaire - Scales and Validity

Another one of my old surveys that I'm digging out and using SPSS on.

This one was inspired by an interesting book, Black and White Racial Identity: Theory, Research and Practice. In that book, they talk about stages in development of racial identity for both black and white people in US.

They also include a questionnaire that caught my eye, the Black Racial Identity Attitude Scale (RIAS-B). I decided to reword the questionnaire and give it to a bunch of (49 in total, though some left certain questions blank) disabled people to see whether they'd show similar patterns of responses.

There are four subscales on the RIAS-B, corresponding to four theorized stages: Preencounter, Encounter, Immersion and Internalization. Preencounter refers to a black racist, basically - someone who has internalized the prejudice aimed at them, or at the very least thinks it applies to 'other blacks' even if it doesn't apply to them personally. Encounter is a transition point when the Preencounter person suddenly realizes that their worldview isn't working for them, and they need to change something. Immersion is 'black supremacist/separatist', someone who rejects whites and views blacks as superior, and is seen as an initial solution to the problems that Encounter raises. Internalization is viewing both blacks and whites as equal, and wanting all diversity to be respected.

(Personally, I'd say those stages apply to me. Before I knew I was autistic, I viewed disability as interesting but never questioned the idea that it was a tragic thing. Then, I started thinking autistic was better than neurotypical, around the same time I was starting to realize I was autistic. At that time, also, I considered other disabilities to be totally different from autism. And then I started viewing all disabilities as part of diversity, and believing that no one kind of person was the best.)

So, here's the scale validity tests, first of all. (Note: Each statement is answered either yes or no, with a yes score counting for the relevant subscale.)


The Preencounter scale, with 9 questions, had a Cronbach's alpha of .578, which is poorer than my teacher's recommended .70, but similar to Ponterotto and Wise (1987)'s finding of .63 for the original scale.

I also analyzed correlations between the individual questions and the total score (p value of less than .05 is considered significant and italicized):
  • 'I believe that large numbers of disabled people are incompetent' - correlation .704, p < .001
  • 'I believe that nondisabled people look and/or express themselves better than disabled people' - correlation .513, p < .001
  • 'I feel very uncomfortable around disabled people' - correlation .191, p = .209
  • 'I believe that to be disabled is not necessarily good' - correlation .299, p = .046
  • 'I believe that disabled people should try to emulate nondisabled people and seek to cure or lessen their disability' - correlation .637, p < .001
  • 'I believe that disabled people are damaged in some way and are not meant to be' - correlation .692, p < .001
  • 'I feel guilty and/or anxious about some of the things I believe about disabled people' - correlation .403, p = .006
  • 'I feel that a disabled person's most effective way of solving problems is to become part of nondisabled society' - correlation .459, p = .002
  • 'I believe that nondisabled people are inherently more capable than disabled people' - correlation .645, p < .001
Furthermore, the two questions with the weakest correlations, 'uncomfortable around disabled people' and 'disabled not necessarily good' did not correlate with any other questions on this subscale, while the others all correlated with 1-6 other questions. Therefore, I decided to try dropping those two and recalculating the validity.

Preencounter2, with 7 questions, had a Cronbach's alpha of .714, which is above my teacher's cutoff. So, that's good.


The Encounter scale, with 3 items, had a Cronbach's alpha of -.15, which is abysmally poor. In comparison, Ponterotto and Wise found an alpha of .37, which is still fairly poor.

Unsurprisingly, given the very small number of items, the correlation between each individual item and the total was high. However, none of the items showed any significant correlation with each other:
  • 'I feel unable to involve myself in nondisabled groups/activities, and am increasing my involvement in disabled groups/activities' - correlation -.226 with 'reading and thinking' and .05 with 'feeling guilty'
  • 'I find myself reading a lot of disabled literature and thinking about being disabled' - correlation -.226 with 'unable to involve' and .066 with 'feeling guilty'
  • 'I feel guilty and/or anxious about some of the things I believe about disabled people' - correlation .05 with 'unable to involve' and .066 with 'reading and thinking'
I decided to simply scrap this subscale. Two of the questions load on both Encounter and another scale, and both of those seem fairly well correlated with their respective scales. So those two should just be viewed as belonging to their scales.


The Immersion subscale, with 7 items, had a Cronbach's alpha of .306, which is pretty poor. In contrast, Ponterotto and Wise found an aplha of .72 with the original version.

When I looked at individuals items and their correlation to the total, I found the following:
  • 'I feel unable to involve myself in nondisabled groups/activities, and am increasing my involvement in disabled groups/activities' - correlation .497, p < .001
  • 'I often find myself referring to nondisabled people in derogatory ways (eg 'stupid NTs')' - correlation .571, p < .001
  • 'I frequently confront the system and the people representing it' - correlation .605, p < .001
  • 'I believe that the world should be interpreted from a disabled person's perspective' - correlation .445, p = .002
  • 'I have changed my style of life to fit my beliefs about disabled people' - correlation .229, p = .125
  • 'I speak my mind regardless of the consequences, even fairly serious ones' - correlation .388, p = .008
  • 'I believe that everything about disabled people is good, and limit myself to disabled activities' - correlation .361, p = .014
The one uncorrelated item, 'changed life', actually correlated negatively with one other item on this scale ('derogatory towards nondisabled'). The weakest correlated item, 'limit self', did not correlate with any other item. So, I decided to try dropping those two items.

Immersion2 had a Cronbach's alpha of .417, still fairly poor. This scale probably needs to be either scrapped or redesigned, since it doesn't seem to apply very well to disabled people. It could be that too many questions involve activities that a disability might impact, such as being unable to involve oneself in nondisabled activities due to inaccessibility. Or, considering that 65% of my sample was autistic, it could be that they interpreted certain questions differently due to literalism or other cognitive differences. Or, perhaps this stage doesn't really occur in disability identity. Further study would be needed to determine this.


The Internalization subscale, with 9 items, got a Cronbach's alpha of .695, a big contrast from Ponterotto and Wise's finding of .37. Rounded up, this would be exactly .70, so just barely meeting my teacher's cut-off.

For the individual items, I found:
  • 'I believe that being disabled is a positive experience' - correlation .748, p < .001
  • 'I know through experience what being disabled in our society means' - correlation .221, p = .160
  • 'I feel an overwhelming attachment to disabled people' - correlation .555, p < .001
  • 'I involve myself in causes that will help all oppressed people' - correlation .521, p < .001
  • 'I feel good about being disabled, but I do not limit myself to disabled activities' - correlation .717, p < .001
  • 'I feel excitement and joy when among disabled people' - correlation .641, p < .001
  • 'People, regardless of disability, have strengths and limitations' - correlation -.110, p = .487
  • 'I am determined to find my disabled identity' - correlation .522, p < .001
  • 'I believe that because I am disabled, I have many strengths' - correlation .708, p < .001
The question about people having strengths regardless of disability did not correlate with any other question (and only 1 of the 46 people answered 'no' to it). The question 'know what disabled means' was moderately (.379) correlated with 'strengths because of disability', but no other question. The remaining questions were correlated with 1-5 questions each (the one with only one correlation, 'attachment to disabled', was strongly correlated with 'excitement/joy with disabled'). So, I decided to drop the two uncorrelated questions.

Internalization2 had a Cronbach's alpha of .736, which is pretty good.

Average Scale Scores

I calculated scale scores by adding all the 'yes' items in a scale and then dividing by the number of items in the scale. So, 1 is the maximum and 0 is the minimum score on each scale.

For the original scales, I found the following:
  • Preencounter - mean .1827, SD .15741
  • Encounter - mean .4444, SD .24618
  • Immersion - mean .4441, SD .20254
  • Internalization - mean .7222, SD .22791
For my modified scales, I found:
  • Preencounter - mean .1094, SD .18889
  • Immersion - mean .5000, SD .26247
  • Internalization - mean .6739, SD .28676
Lastly, I took Preencounter2 - Internalization2 and divided the subjects into three subtypes based on the resulting score: Internalization (-.25 or less), Preencounter (.25 or more) and Unclassified (between -.25 and .25). The frequencies were 80% Internalization, 17% Unclassified and 2% (1 person) Preencounter. Which, by the way, means it would be a good idea to re-run this study in a group who have more Preencounter individuals.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Gallant Knight

[Background knowledge: World of Warcraft is a fantasy-based multiplayer online role-playing game, where you can play as one of 12 different races split into 2 factions. There are 9 classes - warrior, mage, rogue, priest, paladin, shaman, druid, hunter and death knight. Levels go from 1-85, with your character starting at level 1 - with the exception of death knights, which can only be made if you have a level 55 or higher character, and start at level 55. My character is a female blood elf mage, around level 30.]

I was doing quests in Stranglethorn Vale, hunting wild raptors (the dinosaurs, not the birds) to prove my strength and trying to steal a treasure from the Mosh'Ogg Ogres, when a male blood elf death knight approached me. His first question was: 'Are you a girl in real life? Just asking'.

I hesitated, suspecting that he was going to come on to me, but I don't like lying or making assumptions about other people's intentions, so I said yes. He knelt before me, and then offered to help me with my quests.

I agreed. So he kept the ogres off as I stole the treasure, and helped to kill the raptors I needed. We may have done one or two other quests, I can't remember. Then he asked if I was single or if I had a boyfriend who might get annoyed at me hanging out with him.

OK, here it came. I had to explain. I told him I was asexual. He didn't know what that was, so I explained that I didn't feel 'those urges', and had no desire for a boyfriend.

'You mean you can't love?' He asked. I explained that I could love family and friends, but didn't feel romantic love.

He was very disturbed by this. He told me I should learn to love, and started giving me advice on how to find true love. I replied that it wasn't a choice, it wasn't something to 'learn', just the way I was. He warned me that I might hurt some guy very deeply, if someone fell in love with me and I didn't reciprocate. I said 'maybe'. That would be unfortunate, but not something I could help.

He didn't seem to get it. He seemed convinced that I should become heterosexual. So, out of curiousity, I asked: 'How do you feel about gay people?'

'!!!!!!!!!' He replied. 'Are you a boy or a girl? Were you born with a penis or not?'

I told him once again that I was girl, and he relaxed somewhat and told me he thought being gay was sick. Then he corrected me on my terminology, saying with girls it's called lesbian. I didn't argue terminology with him, even though I think it's kind of silly to have two separate terms for male and female same-sex attraction and I've heard people use 'gay' for both sexes. Instead, I said that it was part of diversity, that not everyone was the same and I didn't think they should be. He finally gave up on convincing me to be heterosexual.

He didn't make me angry, I want to make that clear. And though he was prejudiced, he was clearly a nice person. He reminded me of the romantic ideal of a knight in shining armor, who feels that women are to be treasured and protected like precious jewels. He wanted me to find a guy who liked spending time with me, not one who just wanted me for my body, and was willing to advise me on how to do that. Although I'm pretty certain he was coming on to me, he wasn't pushy about it. I suspect if I'd told him I had a boyfriend, he'd have gracefully backed off without resenting the time he spent helping me with quests.

But his worldview was not one that allowed for sexual diversity.