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The positive consequences of stigma: Two case studies in mental and physical disability

Abstract

This paper adds to the literature on labeling and stigma by focusing on the positive effects, benefits and rewards of possessing a stigma or identity mark. Through an examination of chronic and non-chronic ex-psychiatric patients and involuntarily childless females, we illustrate that such positive responses include: the legitimation of deviant behavior and the deviant role; exemption from normal social roles and obligations; provision of interpersonal and social opportunities; strengthening of familial relationships; opportunities for career growth and change; and personal growth experiences. These specific responses are divided into three generic categories of positive responses to negative labeling: therapeutic opportunities, personal growth experiences, and interpersonal opportunities. We also develop a typology of labeling which incorporates positive and negative labeling and the positive and negative consequences which follow.

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Authors

Additional information

This is a revision of a paper presented at the 1988 annual meetings of the North Central Sociological Association, Pittsburgh, PA. The research was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and from the Government of Ontario, Canada. Correspondence should be directed to Dr. Nancy J. Herman, Department of Sociology, Central Michigan University, Anspach/140, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, U.S.A. 48859; or Dr. Charlene E. Miall, Department of Sociology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4. We wish to thank Dr. Harry Mika and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Herman, N.J., Miall, C.E. The positive consequences of stigma: Two case studies in mental and physical disability. Qual Sociol 13, 251–269 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00989596

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Positive Response
  • Social Issue
  • Social Role
  • Physical Disability