Labelling people as having personality disorder: Effects upon the attributions and intended behaviours of student mental health nurses.
The aim was to investigate whether there are differences in the attributions, emotional reactions and intended behaviours of student mental health nurses towards individuals with personality disorder, compared to those with schizophrenia. The relationships between attributions, emotional reactions and intended behaviours were also investigated.
An experimental mixed design was used. Participants were randomly allocated into two groups: one viewing the label of personality disorder (N= 46), and the other viewing the label of schizophrenia (N = 41). Participants were shown two videos of a male: one of prosocial behaviour, the other of antisocial behaviour. After each video they completed three questionnaires measuring attributions, emotional reactions and intended behaviours. A correlational design was used to assess associations between attributions, emotional reactions and intended behaviours.
No significant differences were found between the groups on the attributions of controllability or dangerousness, the emotional reactions of pity, anger or fear, or the intended behaviours of help and coercion. A significant difference was found between the groups on the social distancing measure, with participants in the schizophrenia group desiring greater social distance. This is contrary to the direction predicted. No significant associations were found consistently across the groups between controllability and the intended behaviours. Dangerousness was significantly
associated with the desire to socially distance oneself across all groups. Pity was the only emotion that did not significantly correlate with any of the intended behaviours. Significant negative correlations were found between fear and anger and intended helping behaviours.
Overall, there was no significant difference between student mental health nurses’ attributions, emotional reactions and intended behaviours towards individuals labelled with personality disorder and individuals labelled with schizophrenia. It is acknowledged that the significant finding relating to social distancing may be due to limitations of the analysis. Results suggest that the attribution of dangerousness and emotional reactions of anger and fear are important when considering the reactions of student mental health nurses towards their patients.
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