Sociology Index


Short stature (dwarf), physical disabilities, facial disfigurement, stuttering, a prison record, being obese, or not being able to read, may become stigmatized attributes. In India, widowhood is a stigmatized, though no stigma attaches to a widower.

As used by Erving Goffman (1922-1982), stigma is differentness about an individual which is given a negative evaluation by others and thus distorts and discredits the public identity of the person. Stigma may lead to the adoption of a self-identity that incorporates the negative social evaluation. Stigma is branding, a sign of social disgrace or subjection.

Social psychologists and sociologists have been studying phenomena related to stigma for a long time now. Stigma is mark or sign of social disgrace or social discredit, regarded as impressed on or carried by a person though may be through no fault of the person.

Illegitimacy is considered an unambiguous social stigma. Stigma is a visible or apparent characteristic indicative of some undesirable or discreditable quality, action, or circumstance.

Stigmatization Among Probationers
Andreas Schneider ; Wayne McKim
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume:38 Issue:1 Dated:2003 Pages:19 to 31
Abstract: An identity theory perspective defines stigma as negative labeling. Drawing on the concepts of primary deviance and secondary deviance provided by labeling theory, the authors set out to determine whether probationers experience stigmatization from within (secondary deviance) or from others in their community (primary deviance). Personal interviews were conducted with 97 current probationers in rural West Texas. Questions focused on probationers’ perceptions of how employers, family, the community, law enforcement, and friends viewed them as a result of their probation placement in order to establish the presence of primary deviance. Results indicate that probationers perceived stigmatization to originate mainly from employers, and also from law enforcement officials and the community in general. Primary stigmatization was counterbalanced by the probationers’ perceptions of themselves and from the support of friends and family members. As a result, probationers did not engage in secondary deviance to the extent expected due to the contradictions in the different forms of stigmatization. The support of family and friends is thus extremely important in destabilizing the stigmatization of others. In closing, the authors suggest that although the lack of stigmatization may be indicative of the success of the probation program in West Texas, it may also be indicative of its failure.

Stigmatization of people with mental illnesses: a follow-up study within the Changing Minds campaign of the Royal College of Psychiatrists - ARTHUR CRISP, MICHAEL GELDER, EILEEN GODDARD, and HOWARD MELTZER
A population survey before the start of the Changing Minds campaign showed that negative opinions about people with mental illnesses were widely held, and that opinions about different disorders differed in important ways. Though often small, apart from reported opinions concerning treatment and outcome, they were all reductions in the percentages of stigmatizing opinions. Seventy seven percent of respondents reported knowing someone with one of the seven disorders. Those who did so in respect of severe depression or panic and phobias were less likely to have stigmatizing opinions about people with the corresponding disorder, but the same did not apply to the other disorders. The greatest proportion of negative opinions was in the 16-19 year age group, and respondents with higher education were less likely than the rest to express such views. We conclude that stigmatizing opinions are frequent in the community but the various disorders are not stigmatized in the same way. Campaigns to reduce stigma should take account of these differences, and of the need to address young people.

Dijker, A. J. M., & Koomen, W. Stigmatization, Tolerance and Repair: An Integrative Psychological Analysis of Responses to Deviance. New York: CUP. (2007).

Oyserman, D., & Swim, J. K. Stigma: An Insider's Perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 57 (special issue devoted to stigma research). (2001).

Heatherton, T. F., Kleck, R. E., Hebl, M. R., & Hull, J. G. (Eds.). The Social Psychology of Stigma. NY: Guilford Pub. (2000).

Katz, I. Stigma: A Social Psychological Analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (1981).
Levin, S., & Van Laar, C. (Eds.). Stigma and Group Inequality: Social Psychological Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (2006).

Jones, E. E., Farina, A., Hastorf, A. H., Markus, H. Miller, D. T., & Scott, R. A. Social Stigma: The Psychology of Marked Relationships. New York: W. H. Freeman. (1984).