Self-Stigma Among Criminal Offenders: Risk and Protective Factors

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Those involved in the criminal justice system are swiftly identified as “criminals.” Receipt of this label may promote self-stigma, a process wherein criminal stereotypes are internalized and produce negative psychological and behavioral consequences. Research has yet to identify which types of offenders are at risk for, or in contrast, protected from, experiencing self-stigma. The current study examines whether risk and protective factors predict multiple components of the self-stigma process (i.e., perceived stigma, stereotype agreement, internalized stigma, anticipated stigma) in a sample of male jail inmates (N = 111). Results showed that mental health symptoms were a consistent risk factor across 3 of 4 self-stigma components, whereas antisocial characteristics were a risk factor for stereotype agreement and internalized stigma. Self-esteem was a protective factor for internalized and anticipated stigma. Implications for preventing self-stigma among offenders are discussed.

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