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

Abstract

Objectives

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.

Methods

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

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

Funding

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

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Correspondence to Kim Eaton.

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Eaton, K., Stritzke, W.G.K., Corrigan, P.W. et al. Pathways to Self-Stigma in Parents of Children with a Mental Health Disorder. J Child Fam Stud 29, 1732–1744 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01579-2

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Keywords

  • Self-stigma
  • Shame
  • Blame
  • Parent ideal
  • Self-doubt