Investigating Religious Orientation and the Attribution Model of Mental Illness Stigma

2019-05-15T16:04:18Z (GMT) by Annalee V Johnson-Kwochka
Objectives: The Attribution Model of mental illness stigma posits that attributions about the causes and controllability of mental illness contribute to prejudicial emotional reactions, which in turn may lead to discriminatory behaviors towards people with mental illnesses. Given that people make different assumptions about different mental illnesses, if this model is correct, it suggests that specific diagnoses would elicit different types of stigma. Another important, but unexamined, predictor is extrinsic religious orientation, which correlates positively with other types of prejudice and may predict higher levels of mental illness stigma. The purpose of this study was to test the Attribution Model of stigma and examine the relationships between diagnosis, religious orientation, and stigma.
Methods: Participants (n = 334) were recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk, randomized to read one of three vignettes about a person with a mental illness (i.e., schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, depression), and completed measures of mental illness stigma, religious orientation and affiliation, familiarity with mental illness, and authoritarianism. Using latent variable path analysis, analysis of covariance, and multiple regression analyses, relationships in the Attribution Model of mental illness stigma were assessed, as well as the impact of diagnosis and extrinsic religiosity on specific aspects of stigma as measured by the Attribution Questionnare-27 subscales (i.e., blame, anger, pity, danger/fear, avoidance, segregation, and coercion).
Results: Assessment of the Attribution Model indicated moderate overall model fit after respecification. Path coefficients indicated strong relationships between variables that were generally consistent with paths predicted by the model. One notable exception was that feelings of pity were not associated with greater helping behaviors. Analysis of covariance suggested that diagnosis was a key predictor of stigma, and that schizophrenia was the most stigmatized. Multiple regression analyses revealed that extrinsic religiosity was also an important predictor of stigma; extrinsic religiosity appeared to increase certain types of stigma, and moderate the relationship between diagnosis and stigma overall.
Discussion: Although the respecified Attribution Model fit the data fairly well, the findings suggest that either the scale or the model would benefit from further refinement. Results support prior evidence that severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia are more stigmatized than other diagnoses. Extrinsic religiosity was also predictive of increased stigma, both directly and indirectly. As a moderator, extrinsic religiosity may decrease the impact of diagnosis on stigma, raising stigma for diagnoses perceived as more “controllable” (i.e., anorexia nervosa, depression) such that levels were similar to schizophrenia. Limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed.