Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 11, pp 2949–2959 | Cite as

Stigma towards Mental Health Problems during Childhood and Adolescence: Theory, Research and Intervention Approaches

  • Caroline HearyEmail author
  • Eilis Hennessy
  • Lorraine Swords
  • Patrick Corrigan
Original Paper


Many children and teenagers living with mental health problems experience stigma from within their peer group, yet this remains an under-researched topic in developmental science and the broader mental health literature. This paper highlights the limitations of adopting measures, concepts and theories that have exclusively emanated from the adult mental health literature. We argue that the social context of children and adolescents is critical in understanding the development and maintenance of stigma towards those with mental health problems, alongside the changing developmental needs and abilities of children and adolescents. In this article we argue that a theory proposed to explain the development of stereotypes and prejudice in childhood has potential as a framework for integrating existing research findings on mental health stigma in childhood and adolescence and providing direction for further research. The need for interventions that are grounded within the developmental science literature and that explicitly state their theory of change are identified as key research priorities for reducing stigma during childhood and adolescence.


Stigma Children Adolescence Mental health disorders Developmental Inter-Group Theory 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Heary
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eilis Hennessy
    • 2
  • Lorraine Swords
    • 3
  • Patrick Corrigan
    • 4
  1. 1.School of PsychologyNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  3. 3.School of Psychology & Children’s Research CentreTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland
  4. 4.Lewis College of Human SciencesIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA

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