Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2015 Aug;41:87-116.
doi: 10.1146/annurev-soc-071312-145702. Epub 2015 May 4.

The Stigma Complex

Affiliations
Free PMC article

The Stigma Complex

Bernice A Pescosolido et al. Annu Rev Sociol. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, research on stigma has continued. Building on conceptual and empirical work, the recent period clarifies new types of stigmas, expansion of measures, identification of new directions, and increasingly complex levels. Standard beliefs have been challenged, the relationship between stigma research and public debates reconsidered, and new scientific foundations for policy and programs suggested. We begin with a summary of the most recent Annual Review articles on stigma, which reminded sociologists of conceptual tools, informed them of developments from academic neighbors, and claimed findings from the early period of "resurgence." Continued (even accelerated) progress has also revealed a central problem. Terms and measures are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion and decreasing accumulated knowledge. Drawing from this work but focusing on the past 14 years of stigma research (including mental illness, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS, and race/ethnicity), we provide a theoretical architecture of concepts (e.g., prejudice, experienced/received discrimination), drawn together through a stigma process (i.e., stigmatization), based on four theoretical premises. Many characteristics of the mark (e.g., discredited, concealable) and variants (i.e., stigma types and targets) become the focus of increasingly specific and multidimensional definitions. Drawing from complex and systems science, we propose a stigma complex, a system of interrelated, heterogeneous parts bringing together insights across disciplines to provide a more realistic and complicated sense of the challenge facing research and change efforts. The Framework Integrating Normative Influences on Stigma (FINIS) offers a multilevel approach that can be tailored to stigmatized statuses. Finally, we outline challenges for the next phase of stigma research, with the goal of continuing scientific activity that enhances our understanding of stigma and builds the scientific foundation for efforts to reduce intolerance.

Keywords: connectedness; discrimination; disparities; mental illness; prejudice; race/ethnicity; sexual orientation.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Percentage of individuals in 16 countries endorsing public stigma items. Schizophrenia vignette, from the Stigma in Global Context-Mental Health Study (SGC-MHS, N = 6,542). Adapted and reprinted with permission from Pescosolido et al. 2013.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Framework Integrating Normative Influence on Stigma (FINIS). Adapted and reprinted with permission from Pescosolido et al. 2008b.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 32 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback