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Perceptions of and Responses to Stigma



In the last 10 years, interest in the concept of stigma has grown remarkably throughout the social sciences. Today, stigma is an important topic that bridges many disciplines, including sociology, psychology, social psychology, and public health. This literature review primarily addresses perceptions of and responses to stigma from the insider's or target's perspective. The topics examined in this review include the following: defining stigma, public opinion and attitudes toward the stigmatized, measurement of perceptions of stigma and discrimination, the coping strategies employed by stigmatized persons to deal with stigma, the impact of stigma in terms of psychological and behavioral outcomes, explanations of coping strategies and outcomes, and strategies and interventions to reduce stigma. As many of the concerns faced by stigmatized persons are universal, what has been learned in research about one stigmatized group can provide insight into another. Promising directions for future stigma-related research are identified and discussed.