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Infantilization of the elderly in the institutional environment

Erin Lynne Cassidy, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Infantilizating speech, in which individuals speak to older adults as if they were children, is a communication style that affects the recipient's ability to form important relationships and elicit vital information. The purpose of the present study was to identify specific factors that may relate to the type of speech directed toward nursing home residents by staff members of those institutions, specifically infantilizing speech. The factors examined were knowledge about the aging process, attitudes toward the elderly, education and experience of nursing home staff, the extent to which infantilizing speech may be perceived as nurturing and respectful and the way it relates to ratings of satisfaction and competence of the patient. Fifty staff members of long term care facilities, including nurses and certified nursing assistants, participated in this study by filling out a questionnaire addressing the areas of interest. Regression analyses were carried out for each of the eight dependent variables in order to determine the effect of the designated independent variables. There were significant predictors for the dependent variables of respect and nurturance. Nurturance was rated as low by those with higher levels of knowledge (Beta = $-$.31, t = $-$2.21, p $<$.03, R$\sp2$ =.03). Fewer negative attitudes was also related to viewing infantilizing speech as more respectful (Beta = $-$.45, t = $-$3.18, p $<$.00, R$\sp2$ =.13) and nurturing (Beta = $-$.48, t = $-$3.47, p $<$.00, R$\sp2$ =.14) when compared to the neutral conditions. Recommendations are made for using these findings in the development of staff training programs.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Gerontology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Cassidy, Erin Lynne, "Infantilization of the elderly in the institutional environment" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737511.