Stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs about treatment and psychiatric medications for children with mental illness

Bernice A. Pescosolido, Brea L. Perry, Jack K. Martin, Jane D. McLeod, Peter S. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Objectives: Data on community responses to two treatment issues critical for children and adolescents with mental health problems are addressed: stigma associated with receiving mental health care and the willingness to use psychiatric medication. Methods: Using a representative sample of the U.S. population, the investigators interviewed 1,393 noninstitutionalized adult participants in the National Stigma Study - Children (NSS-C) (response rate 70%; margin of error ±4%). Results: Many respondents believed that stigma results from mental health treatment during childhood (45% reported likely rejection at school) and that stigma continues to have negative ramifications into adulthood (43%). More than half (57%) were skeptical about confidentiality, and more than one-third (35%) expected parents of children with mental illness to experience self-stigma. Most respondents believed that psychiatric medications affect development (68%), give children a flat, "zombie"- like affect (53%), and delay solving "realbehavior-related problems (66%). Most (86%) believed that physicians overmedicate children for common behavioral problems. Women and persons with more education rather than less perceived less stigma resulting from treatment but reported more negative views on medication. Beliefs in medication efficacy and trust in physicians were associated with more positive cultural beliefs. Conclusions: Data on the contemporary cultural context surrounding treatment for children's mental health issues revealed substantial stigma concerns, particularly surrounding medication options. These beliefs and attitudes cannot be easily inferred from adults' sociodemographic characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-618
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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