Archive for May 17th, 2013

May 17, 2013

Stigma Management

When a person receives unfair treatment or alienation due to a social stigma, the effects can be detrimental. Social stigmas are defined as any aspect of an individual’s identity that is devalued in a social context. These stigmas can be categorized as visible or invisible, depending on whether the stigma is readily apparent to others. Visible stigmas refer to characteristics such as race, age, gender, physical disabilities, or deformities; whereas invisible stigmas refer to characteristics such sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, early pregnancy, certain diseases, or mental illnesses.

When individuals possess invisible stigmas, they must decide whether or not to reveal their association with a devalued group to others. This decision can be an incredibly difficult one, as revealing one’s invisible stigma can have both positive and negative consequences depending on several situational factors. In contrast, a visible stigma requires immediate action to diminish communication tension and acknowledge a deviation from the norm. People possessing visible stigmas often use compensatory strategies to reduce potential interpersonal discrimination that they may face.

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