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Center for Social Development and Education Director Gary N. Siperstein, PhD, has created several assessment instruments for studying the attitudes of children toward potentially stigmatized groups. They include the Adjective Checklist (Siperstein, 1980), Friendship Activity Scale (Siperstein & Bak, 1985b), and Prognostic Belief Scale (Wolraich & Siperstein, 1983). These instruments have been employed in numerous studies on children's attitudes relating to visual impairments, autism, obesity, cancer, and physical and intellectual disabilities.

For more information on these instruments, please click on the tabs on the left.

Adjective Checklist

The Adjective Checklist (ACL), developed in 1980, is a measure of children’s attitudes utilizing a checklist format first employed by Gough (1952). The ACL has been employed in more than thirty studies to assess children’s attitudes toward persons with mental retardation visual impairments, autism, obesity, cancer, and physical disabilities.

The ACL utilizes an open-ended format that allows children to select as many positive and negative adjectives from a provided list to describe a specific person (target). The open-ended approach of the ACL does not restrict children to making judgments that they may not ordinarily make, the way a forced choice format might.

The ACL was developed by asking large samples of children in grades one through six to identify terms they would use to describe a person they like and a person they did not like. Those terms that were mentioned most often were compiled into a list, and new samples of children were asked to judge each term as a “good” thing or a “bad” thing to say about someone. As a result, thirty-four adjectives were identified that describe a person’s affective feelings, physical appearance, academic behavior, and social behavior.

The ACL can be administered to children individually or in groups by asking the children to use the checklist to describe a particular target. The target may be either a hypothetical student depicted in a videotaped vignette, photograph, or verbal description, or a real individual. In each instance the target is presented and then the child is asked to describe the target using as few or as many words from the list as he or she would like.

The ACL and supporting materials are available upon request by emailing Please inform CSDE if you plan to use this instrument or some modification.

List of studies that employ the ACL/FAS.

Friendship Activity Scale

The Friendship Activity Scale (FAS) was designed to measure children's behavioral intentions toward a peer with a disability. The FAS consists of items that represent common activities that children engage in with their friends in and outside of school. The activity statements range from "I would go up to him/her and say hello" to "I would share a secret with him/her" and reflect the different stages of friendship. Each of the activities is followed by a four-point scale to rate whether the child would engage in the activity with a peer (yes, probably yes, probably no, no).

The FAS and supporting materials are available upon request by emailing Please inform the center if you intend to use this instrument or some modification.

List of studies that employ the ACL/FAS.

Prognostic Beliefs Scale

Over the past several decades, increasing attention has been given to the quality of medical and other related services received by individuals with disabilities. A key component influencing the quality of services given to individuals with disabilities is the attitudes of service providers (see Wolraich, Siperstein & Reed, 1993; Horwitz, Kerker, Owens, & Zigler, 2000). Thirty years ago, the Center for Social Development and Education developed an attitude scale designed specifically for service providers regarding individuals with disabilities (Wolraich & Siperstein, 1983). This instrument, called the Prognostic Beliefs Scale (PBS) has been successfully used with a wide range of professionals who provide services to individuals with disabilities (such as physicians, social workers, educators, human service workers, dentists, psychologists, nurses, etc.)

The purpose of the Prognostic Beliefs Scale is to assess respondents’ perceptions about the current capabilities or future capabilities of a person with a disability. The PBS consists of 27 capabilities that cover self-help, social, and independent living skills (Wolraich & Siperstein, 1983). Tasks in this scale range from simple (e.g. “uses utensils while eating”) to complex (“fills out a job application.”) Respondents are given the list of capabilities and are asked to think about a specific attitude target. The target could be a person with “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe,” mental retardation or the target could be an explicit case study of an individual with a specific genetic condition (e.g. Down syndrome) or medical condition (e.g. hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, etc.). Respondents check off the skills they believe the target person is able to (or will be able to) achieve. Results have shown that the more positive an individual’s prognosis (a higher number of items checked), the greater the expectation for individuals with intellectual disabilities to live and work in independent placements.

The scale can be given in a one-time assessment or as a pre/post assessment to assess the impact of a training intervention. In addition, the PBS can be given in conjunction with measures of behavioral intention.

Additional information on the PBS may be obtained by emailing


Center for Social Development and Education

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100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125 USA