Pathways to Self-Stigma in Parents of Children with a Mental Health Disorder

  • Kim EatonEmail author
  • Werner G. K. Stritzke
  • Patrick W. Corrigan
  • Jeneva L. Ohan
Original Paper



Self-stigma in parents of children with a mental health disorder is a painful experience, yet the process by which it is formed is poorly understood. A model of this process would improve our understanding and inform intervention development. The two existing models of self-stigma have not been tested with parents of children with a mental health disorder specifically, and are inconsistent with qualitative research findings suggesting an alternative explanation. Thus, this study aimed to test a model of parents’ self-stigma drawn from qualitative research, in which parents’ awareness of stigma predicts parents’ self-doubt about their parenting, self-doubt predicts self-stigma, which in turn predicts affective distress.


Parents of children with a mental health disorder (n = 424) completed measures representing each of these model components.


Using structural equation modelling and after controlling for child symptoms and demographics, significant direct pathways were found from awareness of stigma to self-doubt, self-doubt to self-stigma, and self-stigma to affective distress.


These findings suggest that self-doubt is an important step in internalising stigma as self-stigma. Furthermore, self-stigma is related to serious consequences for parents’ psychological wellbeing and hence, the parent-child relationship. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for theory and self-stigma interventions.


Self-stigma Shame Blame Parent ideal Self-doubt 



The authors extend their sincerest gratitude to the parents and the many individuals and organisations who have either contributed to, or supported recruitment for, this study.

Author Contributions

K.E.: designed and executed the study, completed the data analyses, and prepared the manuscript. W.G.K.S.: collaborated on the study design and writing of the manuscript. P.W.C.: collaborated on the study design and writing of the manuscript. J.L.O.: collaborated on the study design and writing of the manuscript, and reviewed data analyses.


This study was funded by the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, and The University of Western Australia, School of Psychological Science.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (The University of Western Australia, Human Research Ethics Office) and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments, or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Illinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA
  3. 3.National Consortium on Stigma and EmpowermentChicagoUSA

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