Research Papers

The Role of Gender in Mental-Illness Stigma - A National Experiment

Northwestern University | January, 05 , 2009
James H. Wirth, Galen V. Bodenhausen | Download (0)
The stigma of mental illness imposes substantial costs on both the individuals who experience mental illness as well as on society at large. Understanding the psychological underpinnings of this stigma is therefore a matter of practical and theoretical significance. In a national, Web-based survey experiment, the paper investigates the role played by gender in moderating mental-illness stigma. Respondents read a case summary in which the gender of the person was orthogonally manipulated along with the type of disorder; the cases reflected either a male-typical disorder or a female-typical disorder. Results indicated that when cases were gender typical, respondents felt more negative affect, less sympathetic, and less inclined to help, compared to when cases were gender atypical. This pattern can be explained by the fact that gender-typical cases were significantly less likely to be seen as genuine mental disturbances.

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