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Stigma-Related Beliefs and Experiences among Homeless Individuals Carolyn Weisz, Psychology Renée Houston, Communication Studies University of Puget Sound.

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Presentation on theme: "Stigma-Related Beliefs and Experiences among Homeless Individuals Carolyn Weisz, Psychology Renée Houston, Communication Studies University of Puget Sound."— Presentation transcript:

1 Stigma-Related Beliefs and Experiences among Homeless Individuals Carolyn Weisz, Psychology Renée Houston, Communication Studies University of Puget Sound Contact: Please do not cite without permission of Presentation at the Biennial Conference of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) Chicago, June 27-29, 2008 Acknowledgement and appreciation to Diane Quinn and student assistants, Carrie Clark, Karen Czerniak, Sonia Ivancic, Tom Van Heuvelen, Alex Westcoat, Natalie Whitlock, and Jenny Yu. Supported by The Pierce County Road Home Leadership Team and the Boeing Company

2 Background Homelessness – An extreme form of stigma Low in warmth and competence (e.g., Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002) Dehumanization and distancing (Harris & Fiske, 2006; Phelan, Link, Moore & Stueve, 1997). Multiple Stigmas - Homeless/poor - Mental illness - Unemployed/uneducated - Addiction - Single/divorced - Poor health - Criminal history - Race/gender Concealability Multiple stigmas that are and are not concealable Agency and context Unclear costs and benefits of concealing/disclosing

3 Purpose Broader Research Context Pierce County/Univ. of Puget Sound Civic Scholarship Partnership HB2163 requirement for a plan to reduce homelessness by 50% Interdisciplinary approach Social Psychological Questions How do people experiencing homelessnesss think they are viewed by the non-homeless? (Study 1) Do types of stigmatized identities differ in salience, centrality, and concern about negative effects of stigma? (Study 2) What dimensions of stigmas relate to well-being? (Study 2) Do the psychological and social consequences of concealable stigmas depend on their intersection with other (concealable and nonconcealable) stigmas? (Study 2)

4 Study 1 Predictions Individuals experiencing homelessness think that outgroup members’ beliefs about the homeless are more negative than their own beliefs. Individuals experiencing homelessness think that outgroup members’ beliefs about the homeless are more negative than beliefs actually reported by a non-homeless sample. Homeless participants (N = 214) 116 men and 98 women, years 55% White, 21% Black, 8% Native American, 5% Hispanic, 1% Asian, 10% Mixed or Other 43% reported mental illness, 44% reported drug/alcohol addiction Non-homeless participants (N = 50) Residents and business leaders recruited from three sources: a master mailing list of Pierce County businesses, the Qwest-dex phone book, and a list of citizens who had participated in marketing research.

5 Stereotype Measure Homeless and nonhomeless participants indicated whether they thought five statements representing negative stereotypes about the homeless were true or false. Most of the homeless are drug addicts or alcoholics. Most of the homeless do not want to work. The homeless are largely responsible for petty crime. Large homeless populations create fear and danger in communities. Most homeless people don’t want to be helped. Homeless participants also indicated the answers that they thought non- homeless individuals would choose most often.

6 % “True” Responses to Statements Item Homeless Believe ( n = 209) Homeless Think Others Believe (n = 209) Non- Homeless Responses (n = 50) Most of the homeless are drug addicts or alcoholics. 35.7%83.1%38.0% Most of the homeless do not want to work. 23.4%74.5%20.0% The homeless are largely responsible for petty crime. 24.4%75.8%20.4% Large homeless populations create fear and danger in communities. 56.8%80.8%88.0% Most homeless people don’t want to be helped. 12.1%69.5%8.0% Mean number of “True” responses out of 5 (SD) 1.55 (1.32) 3.89 (1.70) 1.74 (1.14)

7 Study 2 Examining multiple stigmas among the homeless Stigma dimensions: salience, centrality, and concern about negative treatment and outcomes. Relationships between stigmas and well-being. Intersections of concealable and nonconcealable stigmas: Race differences in the experiences of other stigmas. Participants (N = 70) 51 men and 19 women, years 3 months – 44 years homeless 46% White, 43% Black, 8% Other or Mixed 43% reported mental illness, 43% reported addiction

8 Stigma Measure Identities - being homeless- having a criminal record - race or ethnicity- having a mental illness - gender - having an addiction to alcohol or drugs Salience In the last 3 months, how often did you think about (your)... ? (1 = never, 5 = daily) Centrality (My)... is an important part of who I am. ( 1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) Concern I worry a lot about being treated badly/bad things happening to me because (I have/of my).... ( 1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree)

9 Well-Being Measure In the last 6 months, how __________ have you felt? safe lonely (reverse)(1 = not at all, 5 = extremely) happy depressed (reverse) alpha =.83 hopeful tired (reverse) calm cheerful angry (reverse)

10 Means for Stigma Measures Identity n Salience Centrality Concern __________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Homeless Criminal record Addiction Mental illness Race Race (Black) Gender Gender (Female)

11 Correlations Between Concern and Well-Being Identity n Salience Centrality Concern ___________________________________________________________________________ Homeless * Criminal record * -.46* -.58* Addiction Mental illness * Race * * Race (Black) * * Gender * Gender (Female) *

12 Correlations Between Worry and Well-Being Among Black and White Men Black Men White Men IdentityMrnMr n _______________________________________________________________________________________ Homeless * Criminal record Addiction * 13 Mental illness * Race * Gender

13 Conclusion Summary Individuals experiencing homelessness believe that views people hold about the homeless are very negative. Homeless individuals worry about negative treatment and outcomes associated with various stigmas that may or may not be concealable. Worrying about the effects of stigma is associated with lower emotional well-being. Nonconcealable stigmas (e.g., being Black) may determine how much worrying about concealable stigmas (e.g., homelessness, mental illness) affects well-being. Limitations Self-report and measurement Correlational design Future Directions How do experiences of stigma relate to other outcomes (e.g., social support, health, housing, motivation)? Multiple and intersecting stigmas What are the costs and benefits for homeless individuals of concealing or revealing stigmas?


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