2020 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Iryna Babik


Children begin to stigmatize their peers around the age of 3 years.1 Previous research have not conclusively identified factors influencing children’s negative perception of disability, stigmatization, discrimination, and bullying. Current research proposes three factors regarding children’s negative perception of disability: 1) self-esteem; 2) theory of mind (ToM; ability to understand others’ beliefs, desires, and intentions); and 3) empathy. First, research showed that bullies, those who voice their negative perception, have a lower global self-esteem, while children with higher self-esteem participate less in bullying behavior.3 Second, it was found that children with better ToM skills have greater positive trait attributions and behavioral predictions about stereotyped populations.4 Third, empathy level might be another important factor: contact with persons having disability often results in reduced negative perceptions and stigmatization, which corresponds with elevation of empathy level.5 However, previous research did not evaluate the interplay between the above-mentioned three factors. Identifying the most important factor(s) might allow future targeted interventions to reduce negative perceptions among children toward their peers with disabilities.


  1. Peterson, Jamie Lee. (2010) Weight Stereotyping in Young Children: An Early Personality Reasoning Perspective in 3- to 6- year olds. [Master’s thesis, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro].
  2. Cameron, Lindsey & Rutland, Adam. (2006). Extended Contact through Story Reading in School: Reducing Children’s Prejudice toward the Disabled. Journal of Social Issues, 62(3), 469-488. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2006.00469.xO'Moore, M., & Kirkham, C. (2001). Self-esteem and its relationship to bullying behaviour. Aggressive Behavior, 27(4), 269–283. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.1010 Lapan, Candace & Boseovski, Janet J. (2015) Theory of Mind and Children’s Trait Attributions about Average and Typically Stigmatized Peers. Infant and Child Development, 25(2), 523-531. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.1923
  3. Children's contact with people with disabilities and ... - NCBI." 13 Aug. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26289369. Accessed 09 Feb. 2020.