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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Aug;67(3):431-40. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.03.018. Epub 2008 Apr 22.

Rethinking theoretical approaches to stigma: a Framework Integrating Normative Influences on Stigma (FINIS).

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Department of Sociology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7000, USA.


A resurgence of research and policy efforts on stigma both facilitates and forces a reconsideration of the levels and types of factors that shape reactions to persons with conditions that engender prejudice and discrimination. Focusing on the case of mental illness but drawing from theories and studies of stigma across the social sciences, we propose a framework that brings together theoretical insights from micro, meso and macro level research: Framework Integrating Normative Influences on Stigma (FINIS) starts with Goffman's notion that understanding stigma requires a language of social relationships, but acknowledges that individuals do not come to social interaction devoid of affect and motivation. Further, all social interactions take place in a context in which organizations, media and larger cultures structure normative expectations which create the possibility of marking "difference". Labelling theory, social network theory, the limited capacity model of media influence, the social psychology of prejudice and discrimination, and theories of the welfare state all contribute to an understanding of the complex web of expectations shaping stigma. FINIS offers the potential to build a broad-based scientific foundation based on understanding the effects of stigma on the lives of persons with mental illness, the resources devoted to the organizations and families who care for them, and policies and programs designed to combat stigma. We end by discussing the clear implications this framework holds for stigma reduction, even in the face of conflicting results.

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