Tendency towards stigmatization of families of a person with autistic spectrum disorders

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2014 Feb;60(1):63-70. doi: 10.1177/0020764012463298. Epub 2012 Oct 30.

Abstract

Background: Family members experience stigma via their connection with the affected member. Family stigma contains stereotypes of blame, shame and contamination.

Aim: To establish the tendency towards stigmatization of family members of a person with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) by a sample of the general public of Belgrade.

Methods: The sample encompassed 181 participants, of various ages and levels of education, and of different, self-assessed levels of knowledge about autism. The structure of stigmatization of family members of a person with ASD was explored applying the Family Stigma Questionnaire (FSQ) and the Level of Familiarity Questionnaire (LFQ).

Results: Analysis of the obtained results established that scores indicating the tendency towards stigmatization were most pronounced for variables connected to blame for deterioration of the condition of the person with autism, contamination of the individual family members by the condition, and to feeling pity for family members of a person with ASD. Statistically significant differences were established when the FSQ scores stigmatizing parents and siblings were compared. Significant differences in stigmatizing stereotypes were established according to gender and level of education, and according to the self-assessment of knowledge about autism and the level of previous contact to persons with mental disorders.

Conclusion: Anti-stigma programmes are important especially bearing in mind that participants who self-evaluated as having the least knowledge about ASD demonstrated the highest tendency towards stigmatizing the parents of a person suffering from ASD, and those of lower education demonstrated the highest tendency towards stigmatizing the family members.

Keywords: Autistic spectrum disorder; attitudes towards persons with disabilities; family stigma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Serbia
  • Social Stigma*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult