Although there is a substantial body of research on the stigma associated with mental illness, much of the extant research has not explicitly focused on the concept of prejudice, which drives discriminatory behaviour. Further, research that has investigated prejudice towards people with mental illness has conceptual, theoretical and psychometric limitations. To address these shortcomings, we sought to develop a new measure, the Prejudice towards People with Mental Illness (PPMI) scale, based on an improved conceptualisation and integration of the stigma and prejudice areas of research.
In developing the new scale, we undertook a thematic analysis of existing conceptualisations and measures to identify a pool of potential items for the scale which were subsequently assessed for fidelity and content validity by expert raters. We tested the structure, reliability, and validity of the scale across three studies (Study 1 N = 301; Study 2 N = 164; Study 3 N = 495) using exploratory factor, confirmatory factor, correlational, multiple regression, and ordinal logistic regression analyses using both select and general community samples.
Study 1 identified four factors underlying prejudice towards people with mental illness: fear/avoidance, malevolence, authoritarianism, and unpredictability. It also confirmed the nomological network, that is, the links of these attitudes with the proposed theoretical antecedents and consequences. Studies 2 and 3 further supported the factor structure of the measure, and provided additional evidence for the nomological network.
We argue that research into prejudice towards people with mental illness will benefit from the new measure and theoretical framework.