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J Fam Psychol. 2006 Jun;20(2):239-46.

Blame, shame, and contamination: the impact of mental illness and drug dependence stigma on family members.

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  • 1Institute of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3424 South Slate Street, Chicago, IL 60616, USA.


Family members of relatives with mental illness or drug dependence or both report that they are frequently harmed by public stigma. No population-based survey, however, has assessed how members of the general public actually view family members. Hence, the authors examined ways that family role and psychiatric disorder influence family stigma. A national sample (N = 968) was recruited for this study. A vignette design describing a person with a health condition and a family member was used. Family stigma related to mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, is not highly endorsed. Family stigma related to drug dependence, however, is worse than for other health conditions, with family members being blamed for both the onset and offset of a relative's disorder and likely to be socially shunned.

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