Attitudes of the Student Youth and Middle Aged Persons Towards the Elderly ...
Attitudes of the Student Youth and Middle
Aged Persons Towards the Elderly
K. VISWESWARA RAO, B. DEVI PRASAD AND
CH. AVATARAMU
Two data sets obtained by administering the Tuckman and Lorge Scale (1953) to
a sample of 75 university students and 114 rural, middle aged people are used to
assess the attitudes of two age groups toward the elderly. The results indicate that
the student youth, the respondents not living with old people in their families, men,
respondents belonging to disadvantaged sections of the society, and those from
low income groups hold more negative attitudes toward the elderly as compared
to their counterparts. More specifically, poverty appears to be significantly
associated with negative attitudes toward the elderly which may be the conse-
quence of lack of enough financial resources to take care of them. It is recom-
mended that programmes should be designed to integrate the aged into the family
and social fabric, to bring the younger generations closer to them and to provide
families with support services so as to enable them to take better care of the old
people.
Dr. K. Visweswara Rao is Assistant Professor, Dr. B. Devi Prasad is Associate
Professor and Ch. Avataramu is Research Scholar with the Department of Social.

Work, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam.
INTRODUCTION
The problems of the elderly population in most of the developing
countries, including India, have been growing alarmingly. Some of the
major reasons responsible for this phenomenon are: weakening of
family bonds, migration of the young to towns and cities, acceptance
of small family norm, and increased entry of women into paid employ-
ment. Besides these, a general decline in adherence to traditional
values, and growing individualism among the younger generation are
also responsible to exacerbate the problems of the aged.
Though there is adequate documentation about the problems of the
aged, certain areas of research in the field have received insufficient,

Attitudes of the Student Youth and Middle Aged Persons... 43
if not less, attention of the scholars. One such area is societal attitudes
towards the elderly. Attitudes toward the aged play a significant role
as a causal factor of treatment of the elderly. According to Giordano
and Giordano (1984), negative attitudes of the caregivers towards the
aged might cause or reinforce the patterns of elder abuse and neglect
by devaluing their status in society. They argued that negative attitudes
tended to dehumanise the elderly and made it easier for an abuser to
victimise them without feeling remorse. Further, the devaluation of the
aged increased their risk of being abused as a sub-category of individu-
als in the community (Levin and Levin, 1980).
Review of Studies
A few investigations into the attitudes of the student youth, and of the
institutionalised elderly toward the aged have shown that most of the
respondents held popular misconceptions and stereotypes about the
aged. They perceived the old people as stubborn, touchy, and as being
engaged in frequent quarrels with their kin (Golde and Kegan, 1959;
Tickman and Lorge, 1952; 1953). Some researchers found that while
modernisations and the western culture were characterised by an
overall negative attitude towards the aged, eastern culture and the
stable primitive societies were characterised by respect and value for
old age (Eisdorfer, 1981). However, Sharma (1971), in his study,
compared the attitude scores of Indian students with another attitudinal
study conducted by Arnhoff, Henery and Lorge (1964), on student
samples drawn from six nations. He pointed out that Indian and Greek
students held more negative attitudes toward the elderly as compared
to students from other nations such as the United States of America,
Japan, Puerto Rico, Sweden and England. Interestingly, one study on
children's attitude towards the aged revealed that culture was an
important variable in attitude formation toward old people and old age
(Seefeldt and Ahn, 1990). Drake (1957) found that physical proximity,
frequency of contact, as well as intimacy of contact did not influence
the stereotypes held by a sample of students.
Studies conducted on Indian youth about their attitudes towards
their elderly family members revealed that a number of respondents
agreed to such attitudinal statements as: 'Old people make one feel ill
at ease'. Similarly, men, as compared to women, and educated respon-
dents, as against less educated, reported higher negative attitude to-
ward old people. Most of these respondents perceived old people as a

44 K. Visweswara Rao, B. Devi Prasad and Ch. Avataramu
burden to their families and society (Praveen, Rajni and Praveen, 1987;
Savita and Sharma, 1987).
A few other Indian studies have also reported about the negative
stereotypes held by youth towards the aged (Anantaraman, 1980;
Warty, 1970), and differences in the attitudes of rural youth and the
middle aged toward the elderly (Narasimha Reddy, 1985; Sivasankar
Reddy, 1983). Kullai Reddy and Rama Murthy (1988) found that
individuals closer to old age held less negative stereotypes about the
old people. The findings of another study on a sample of college
students revealed that the students tended to evaluate an older person
more negatively as compared to a middle aged person. The students
perceived the elderly as being less involved, unsociable, unimagina-
tive, less intelligent, and weak (Sharma and Karunanidhi, 1995).
Thus, extant research shows that while negative attitudes toward
the old and old age may be widely prevalent, these attitudes seem to
vary with culture, economic status, age, gender, educational levels,
physical proximity and frequency of contact with old people. Further,
the prevailing social attitudes about the role and status of the elderly
in a society, appear to have a bearing on how the elderly are treated in
the family and community context. That is the reason why people's
attitudes toward the elderly assume significance as one of the explana-
tory variables of elderly abuse. Therefore, there is a need to understand
the influence of age and gender, besides other variables, on the
attitudes towards the elderly to find out their role as causal or contrib-
uting factors for elder abuse.
Purpose of the Study
From this point of view, data about the attitudes toward the elderly
held by different groups such as children, women, youth and the
middle aged will be useful and relevant. More specifically, a study of
the attitudes of the youth and the middle aged will be relevant in terms
of the generation-specific attitudes towards the elderly. In this light,
while the attitudes of the youth toward the elderly reflect the view of
the present generation, the attitudes held by the middle aged reflect, in
general, the views of significant others who are currently providing
care to the aged. These groups, comprising both genders, interact, care
and manage old people in various life situations. Therefore, the data
specific to these groups will be useful both in policy making and
planning for the elderly.

Attitudes of the Student Youth and Middle Aged Persons... 45
Keeping these aspects in view, the present study was taken up to
explore the attitudes of two generations, the youth and the middle aged,
in terms of the relationship between different socio-demographic
variables of the respondents and the nature of their attitudes toward the
aged.
METHOD
The results reported in this paper are based on data sets drawn from
two samples, the student youth (n=75) and the rural, middle aged
persons (n=l 14). The student youth comprised 51 post-graduate social
science students and 24 post-graduate science students of Andhra
University, Visakhapatnam. The sample of middle aged persons com-
prised 114 respondents from three randomly selected villages of the
north coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh (Rao, 1995). Of the total 114
middle aged respondents, 57 were caregivers in families, where at least
one aged person was living at the time of the study. The remaining 57
respondents formed the comparison group, who were taken from
families where no elderly person was living with them.
While the sample of the student youth was purposive, in the middle
aged sample, the 57 caregivers were selected randomly from the
sample villages and the other 57 respondents comprising the compari-
son group, were matched with the caregivers' group on variables such
as gender, caste, family occupation and income. The purpose of using
this comparison group in the second sample was to obtain reliable data
about the relationship between the attitude towards the elderly and
socio-demographic variables including contact with the elderly. These
two data sets are, however, treated and analysed separately. Wherever
similar relationships are observed between the attitudes toward the
elderly, and other variables such as age, gender and family income,
among the two sub-samples, they are highlighted.
Of the student youth sample, 49 respondents were men and 26
women. In the sample of middle aged persons, 100 respondents were
men and 14 were women. Data were collected from the respective
study samples during the period from June 1993 to November 1993.
Data Collection Instrument
Besides data on socio-demgoraphic variables of the study samples,
data on attitudes were collected from them by administering an attitude
scale developed by Tuckman and Lorge (1953). This measure contains
137 statements regarding the predominant stereotypes, both positive

46 K. Visweswara Rao, B. Devi Prasad and Ch. Avataramu
and negative, about the elderly. All these 137 items come under 13
categories such as personality traits, cleanliness, family, insecurity,
activities and interests, sex, best time of life and attitude toward the
future. Some of the statements are: the old people are lonely; they are kind;
they are unproductive; they are stubborn; they like old songs on the radio;
they are conservative; they are touchy and so on. Each statement carries
two response categories, 'yes' or 'no'. The respondents are required to
indicate whether each statement applies to old people by circling either
'yes' or 'no'. For each statement of 'yes', one score is given. Thus, the
total 'yes' scores may range between 0-13. A sum of the 'yes' scores on
the scale, indicates the degree of unfavourable attitude held by the
respondents toward the old people. That is, the higher the 'yes' score, the
greater the negative attitude toward the aged.
Reliability
The scale was found reliable and reported 0.96 for the test-retest
reliability (Tuckman and Lorge, 1954). As the original scale was in
English, a Telugu version of the scale was prepared. To ensure the
aptness of Telugu version, the scale was given separately to two
experts in the Department of Telugu, and to three experts in the
Department of Psychology in the Andhra University. The Telugu
version of the scale was finalised after taking into consideration the
consensus of these five experts. Test-retest and split-half methods were
used on 30 respondents to determine the reliability of the scale. The
reliability of the Telugu version of the scale was r = 0.97 the for
test-retest method and the split half method it was r = 0.75. Using the
Spearman-Brown formula,1 the co-efficient of internal reliability of
the scale was computed to correct for attenuation in the split-half
test. Thus, the reliability co-efficient came to be 0.86.
FINDINGS
Demographic Profile
The Student Youth
Table 1 shows that, from the sample of the youth (a=75), about
two-thirds (65.3 per cent) were men and the remaining 34.7 per cent
were women. A little more than half (52 per cent) of the youth were
from rural areas. However, by gender, more men (64 per cent) were
from rural areas as compared to women who were mostly urban (69

Attitudes of the Student Youth and Middle Aged Persons... 47
per cent). Nearly half (50.7 per cent) of the respondents belonged to
other caste category and the rest to backward caste (37.3 per cent).
Scheduled Caste (SC) (8 per cent) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (4 per
cent). Regarding marital status, all students, except one, were unmar-
ried. As regards the occupational background of the families of the
youth, 38.7 per cent families, 8 per cent with agricultural labour and
38.7 per cent while collar occupations. About 14.6 per cent of the
respondents' family occupation was business. While one-fourth (26.7
per cent) of the total respondents' annual family income was below
Rs. 6,000, the annual family income for 40 per cent of the respondents
was Rs. 24,000 and above. The size of the household of about two-
thirds (64 per cent) of the families of respondents was between four
and six members.
The Middle Aged Persons
As has already been mentioned elsewhere, half of the total sample
(n=l14) of middle aged persons lived in families where at least one
aged family member (60+) is present, whereas the remaining re-
spondents did not have an aged person living in their families. Table
1 shows that a majority (87.7 per cent) of the sample are men and
a predominant number of the sample (79 per cent) belong to back-
ward caste. Most of the respondents are married (86.8 per cent) with
widowed respondents constituting 5.3 per cent of the sample. About
two-thirds (66.7 per cent) of the middle aged persons are illiterate
and the remaining have education upto the secondary level. As the
sample was taken from villages, the family occupation of most of
the respondents is either agriculture (63.2 per cent) or agricultural
labour (33.3 per cent). A majority (62.2 per cent) of the sample
respondents reported that their annual family income was less than
Rs. 12,000.
However, the income range of 22.8 percent of the respondents was
Rs. 24,001 and above. The household size for nearly half (51.7 per
cent) of the respondents is between four to six members, and around
32 per cent of families fell in the range of household size of 7-15
members.
The Sample and Attitude Scores
The mean ages of the two study samples, the youth and the middle
aged, are 23 years and 38 years respectively.

48 K. Visweswara Rao, B. Devi Prasad and Ch. Avataramu
TABLE 1: Means and Standard Deviations (SD) of Attitude Scores of the
Youth and the Middle Aged Samples by Socio-Demographic Variables
' As can be seen from Table 2, the youth sample held more negative
attitudes toward the old people. Earlier studies (Savita and Sharma,
1987; Sharma, 1971) have also indicated a similar trend in the attitudes
of the youth toward the old people.
Living Arrangements of the Elderly and the Attitudes
It may be pointed out here that while the student youth sample was
purposive, the sample of the middle aged respondents comprised a
randomly selected group and a comparison group matched on vari-
ables, such as gender, caste, education, occupation and family income,
thus controlling the effect of these variables on the attitudes towards
the elderly. This attempt was made to ascertain the relationship

Attitudes of the Student Youth and Middle Aged Persons... 49
between the contact with the elderly and attitudes toward them. Inter-
estingly, both the study samples revealed that the variable — living or
not living with the elderly — did make a difference in the direction of
attitudes held by respondents towards the aged.
TABLE 2: Mean Attitude Scores of the Youth and the Middle Aged Samples
As can be seen from Table 3, in both the youth and the middle aged
samples, respondents who were living with an aged person in their
families held less negative attitudes as compared to those who were
not living with an aged person in their families. Further, among the
youth, the difference between the mean scores of the attitudes of those
living with the elderly and those not living with the elderly is found to
be statistically significant. The finding is the same with the sample of
middle aged persons also (Table 3). These are significant findings
supporting the view that contact with the elderly tend to promote
positive attitudes toward them.
Influence of Other Demographic Variables
Table 1 provides information about the mean attitude scores of both
the study groups shown against different socio-demographic variables
such as gender, caste, marital status, education, family occupation and
income. An examination of the data in Table 1, indicates that irrespective
of the sample group, men, as compared to women, are found to be
unfavourably disposed toward the elderly.
TABLE 3: Means and Standard Deviations (SD) of the Attitudes Scores of the
Youth and the Middle Aged Samples by Living Arrangement
bt = value = 6.38 (df = 113), p <.05
Moreover, the youth from the disadvantaged sections of the society
such as, SCs, STs and Backward Castes are found to be more negative

50 K. Visweswara Rao, B. Devi Prasad and Ch. Avataramu
toward the elderly as compared to those from other caste groups.
Among the middle aged sample, those belonging to other caste cate-
gory reported more negative attitudes. However, there are differences
in the attitudes of the middle aged respondents in terms of their marital
status. While unmarried respondents of this group reported less negative
attitudes toward the old people, than the married the widowed were
found to have more negative attitudes.
Our next question is how is education related to these attitudes? As
has been mentioned earlier, the youth held more negative attitudes
towards old age and the elderly. Coming to the sample of middle aged
subjects, it appears (see Table 1) that the illiterate are found to be more
positively disposed toward the elderly than the educated, indicating a
trend that the higher the educational level, the more unfavourable the
attitude toward the aged.
With regard to the family income of the respondents, there appears
to be an inverse relationship between the income level of the family
•and negative attitude towards the aged. This trend is observed in both
the youth and the middle aged samples. As can be seen from Table 1,
the respondents belonging to lower income groups, with an income of
below Rs. 12,000 per annum, held more unfavourable attitudes to-
wards the aged as compared to those from middle and higher income
groups.
Coming to rural-urban background of the student sample, it was
revealed that the urban students were more positive in their attitude
(Mean = 83.22, SD = 16.70) toward old people as compared to rural
students (Mean = 92.10, SD = 15.52).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
The findings of the two study samples indicate that the youth hold
negative attitudes against the elderly. The attitudes of the middle aged
persons are, however, less negative. It is further indicated from the two
sets of data, that male respondents from lower income groups; those
from the disadvantaged sections of the society, such as SCs, STs and
BCs; and literates are more negative in their attitudes toward the
elderly. Interestingly, however, in both the youth and in the middle
aged samples, women and illiterate respondents seem to be more
positive in their attitude toward the elderly. Even in earlier studies, it
was found that women held positive attitudes towards the elderly as
compared to men (Praveen and others, 1987; Savita and Sharma,
1987). Further, it is revealed that the living arrangement with the

Attitudes of the Student Youth and Middle Aged Persons... 51
elderly make a significant difference in the mean attitude scores of the
respondents of both the study samples.
The study has also revealed that the respondents belonging to
lower income groups hold more negative attitudes toward the eld-
erly. Thus, the more unfavourable attitudes expressed by the re-
spondents of lower income groups are possibly related to the
economic hardships faced by the caregivers and other family mem-
bers. The older person, in such a situation, is more likely to be seen
as a burden and, the stress resulting from this, may be responsible
for such a negative attitude. It is observed that such an attitudinal
disposition is more likely to lead to the abuse and neglect of the
elderly (Lau and Kosberg, 1979). Therefore, there is a need to
supplement the economic resources and conditions of such families
by providing necessary support services. Such support may result
in developing positive attitudes among the members of the family
who may feel that old people are not a burden to the family. This
will also prevent ill-treatment of the old people in the family
context.
Obviously, people living with an old person in their family, hold
a more favourable attitude toward the elderly. So, it is better to
design services and programmes which integrate the aged into the
social and family fabric rather than segregate them in institutional
settings. It is, moreover, encouraging to find that women hold more
positive attitudes towards the aged as compared to men. Women,
being the primary caregivers in the family, need supportive services
when the family has an aged person living with them. Such suppor-
tive services will reduce the stress on the caregivers, especially
working women.
It seems that education has little association with favourable
attitudes towards the elderly. There is, however, a further need to
explore this relationship by involving various sections of the society
with larger samples. It is necessary to take up more studies by
employing control and qomparison groups to study the attitudes and
stereotypes about old age held by different sections of the people.
Studies exploring the relationship of different variables such as
gender, income and culture to the formation of attitudes toward the
old people are also needed at present. Such studies will help us to
better understand the psycho-social factors responsible for elder
abuse and neglect and the devaluation of the status of the aged in
contemporary society.

52 K. Visweswara Rao, B. Devi Prasad and Ch. Avataramu
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