The Stigmatising Implications of Presenting Schizophrenia as a Genetic Disease
- 754 Downloads
This study aimed to investigate the hypothesis that belief in a genetic aetiology of schizophrenia will increase the stigma associated with the disorder. Levels of five potentially stigmatising attitudes were compared in two groups of participants who had read a vignette describing an individual who has schizophrenia. In one group the disorder was explained as being caused by ‘genetic’ factors, and in the other by ‘environmental’ factors. This study found that three of the five potentially stigmatising attitudes measured were increased when participants read a vignette with a genetic causation rather than an environmental causation. Firstly, genetic attributions increased levels of associative stigma towards close relatives (p < 0.001). Secondly, participants viewed recovery as less likely when genetic factors were implicated as causative (p < 0.001). Finally, there was also an increased perception of the character’s “dangerousness” when the condition was explained by genetic factors (p < 0.05). Contrary to previous research was the finding that perceived aetiology had no effect on participant’s desire for social distance from an affected individual. Neither did perceived aetiology influence beliefs about moral accountability. The implications of these findings suggest that genetic counsellors and other health professionals, who are providing genetic information to those affected by schizophrenia should be aware of the possibility that a genetic explanation of schizophrenia could increase potentially stigmatising attitudes towards their clients and their clients’ families. It is also possible that individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia may themselves form deterministic interpretations of the genetic information they receive and subsequently be less likely to adopt behavioural advice or adhere to treatment. Counsellors and health professionals should strive to present information in a balanced manner, ensuring recipients understand the multi-factorial causes of the disease.
KeywordsSchizophrenia Stigma Geneticisation
- Atkinson, R. L., Atkinson, R. C., Smith, E. E., Bem, D. J., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Smith, C. D. (2000). Hilgard’s introduction to psychology. London: Harcourt College.Google Scholar
- Biernat, M., & Dovidio, J. F. (2000). Stigma and stereotypes. In T. F. Heatherton, R. E. Kleck, M. R. Hebl, & J. G. Hull (Eds.), The social psychology of stigma. London: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Conrad, P., & Schneider, J. W. (1980). Looking at levels of medicalization: a comment on Strong’s critique of the thesis of medical imperialism. Social Science and Medicine, 14A, 75–79.Google Scholar
- Corrigan, P. W., Rowan, D., Green, A., Lundin, R., River, P., Uphoff-Wasowski, K., et al. (2002). Challenging two mental illness stigmas: personal responsibility and dangerousness. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 28(2), 292–309.Google Scholar
- Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The Psychology of Attitudes. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
- Fink, P. (1996) Stigma: perpetuating misperceptions. Retrieved from http://home.earthlink.net/~durangodave/html/writing/Stigma.htm. Quoted by Allen, M. & Edwards, D.
- Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: notes of the management of a spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Grausgruber, A., Maise, U., Katschnig, H., Schonnny, W., & Fleischacker, W. (2006). Patterns of social distance towards people suffering from schizophrenia in Austria: a comparison between the general public, relatives and mental health staff. Acta Psychiatrica Sczndanavica, 114(2), 146–147. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2006.00865.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Green, M. (2001). Schizophrenia revealed: from neurons to social interactions. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Herbert, W. (n.d.) The politics of biology. Retrieved October 2006 from http://www.beachbrowser.com/Archives/Opinion/POLITICS-OF-BIOLOGY.htm.
- Hodgkinson, A., & Murphey, K. (2001). Genetic counselling for schizophrenia in the era of molecular genetics. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 46, 123–130.Google Scholar
- Jorm, A., Korten, F., Jacomb, A. E., et al. (1997). Public beliefs about the causes and risk factors for depression and schizophrenia. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 82, 143–148.Google Scholar
- Lippman, A. (1991). Prenatal genetic testing and screening: constructing needs and reinforcing inequalities. American Journal of Law & Medicine, 17(1/2), 15–50.Google Scholar
- Loftus, C. (2004). Mental health stigmatisation: a report of the neuroscience initiative. Neuroscience Initiative, 222–225Google Scholar
- Mahoney, L. (2002). Mindview: genetics of schizophrenia. Retrieved May 2006 from http://www.desertpacific.mirecc.va.gov/mindview-archive/MindView-Fall-2002.pdf.
- McGuffin, P. (2001). ESI special topics. Retrieved October 2006 from http://www. esi-topics.com/schizophrenia/interviews/dr-peter-mcguffin.html.
- Minnesota Department of Health. (2004). Chronic disease genomes project. Retrieved from http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/hpcd/genomics/resources/fs/mentalhealth.pdf.
- Sherwin, S., & Simpson, C. (1999). Ethical questions in the pursuit of genetic information: geneticization and BRCA1. In A. Thompson, & R. Chadwick (Eds.), Genetic information: acquisition, access and control. New York: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
- Thomson, A., Stuart, H., Bland, R., Arboleda-Florez, J., Warner, R., & Dickson, R. (2002). Attitudes about schizophrenia from the pilot site of the WPA worldwide campaign against the stigma of schizophrenia. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37, 475–482. doi: 10.1007/s00127-002-0583-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Thornicroft, G. (2006). Shunned: discrimination against people with illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Vengopal, D., & Issac, M. (2000). A questionnaire survey of psychiatrists attitudes towards genetic counselling. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 42(2), 163–166.Google Scholar
- Wahl, O. F. (1987). Public versus professional conceptions of schizophrenia. Journal of Community Psychology, 15, 285–291. doi: 10.1002/1520-6629(198704)15:2<285::AID-JCOP2290150217>3.0.CO;2-F.CrossRefGoogle Scholar