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Soc Sci Med. 1982;16(14):1319-27.

Social distance from the stigmatized. A test of two theories.


Attribution of responsibility and disruption of social interaction are two explanations proposed in previous literature for the existence of differential social distance from individuals with various types of stigmas. This paper tests the relative merits of the theories in explaining perceived social distance that individuals in the study expressed from a wide range of stigmatized conditions representing two general stigma types: the disabled and deviants. The research is based on a sample of professionals and managers in key decision making positions. Perceived social distance was measured by a modified Bogardus Scale. Respondents expressed greater social distance from deviants such as alcoholics and drug addicts than from the disabled such as paraplegics and the blind. Little support was found for the contention that attribution of responsibility determines variations in social distance across or within the two major stigma types of disability and deviance. Rather, results suggest that differential rejection stems from the disruption a stigma causes in social interaction.

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