Day 26 of 99 Days to FASDay: Stop the Stigma

Day 26 of 99 days to 9.9 FASDay

The Public Stigma of Birth Mothers of Children with FASD

by Patrick W. Corrigan, Juana Lorena Lara, Binoy Biren Shah, Kathleen T. Mitchell, Diana Simmes, and Kenneth L. Jones


Stigma affects not only the person with a stigmatizing condition such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), but also their family members. This study examined whether there are stigmatizing attitudes about biological mothers of children with FASD in a crowdsourced sample.


Results supported the notion that mothers of children with FASD are highly stigmatized for their past behavior. The data also suggested that the public might discriminate against this population. Stigma reduction interventions should focus on contact-based strategies, rather than education-based strategies.

Below is a summary of another very detailed study:

It’s a Shame! Stigma Against Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Citation: Emily Bell, Gail Andrew, Nina Di Pietro, Albert E. Chudley, James N. Reynolds, Eric Racine; It’s a Shame! Stigma Against Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Examining the Ethical Implications for Public Health Practices and Policies. Public Health Ethics 2016; 9 (1): 65-77. doi: 10.1093/phe/phv012


There is a lack of knowledge about the factors that contribute to stigma for FASD individuals and how it impacts their lives in spite of the potential harm of stigma in this population (e.g., undermining the development of and access to healthcare services).

We proposed a descriptive model of stigma structured around:

(i) personal responsibility and blame towards biological mothers;

(ii) felt and enacted stigma experienced by children and their families;

(iii) anticipated life trajectories for individuals with FASD.

To address potential biases in clinical practices, there is a need to incorporate training about FASD prevention, diagnosis, interventions and lifespan trajectory in professional education, including physicians and nurses, mental health and addictions workers, educators, justice system, social workers and others to increase knowledge and understanding of the complex socio-demographic factors that surround FASD.

Increasing public awareness about FASD and promoting behavioural change through campaigns directed at reducing drinking during pregnancy requires stakeholder engagement to develop effective, yet ethically and culturally sensitive, messaging and policies.

There is a lot of work to do in reducing stigma and how we create awareness.


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