The stigma of alcoholism: The role of sex and sex role violations

Date of Completion

January 1997


Psychology, Clinical




This experiment is designed to explore two questions. The first question examines perceptions of women who are alcoholic in order to determine whether they are more stigmatized overall than men who are alcoholic. This question compared vignettes depicting either a man or a woman displaying symptoms of alcoholism. These vignettes were also compared to a control vignette which depicted a man or a woman engaged in blameworthy behavior that was nonalcoholic in order to ensure that targets are being stigmatized for alcoholism rather than for blameworthy behavior in general. The second question examines sex role violations and compares the level of stigmatization of men and women who are alcoholic in both role violation and non-role violation conditions for each sex. An example of a male role violation is a vignette that depicts the target a indecisive in a household situation that requires problem solving. An example of a female role violation is a vignette that depicts the target as promiscuous in a dating situation. Participants included 249 female and 259 male undergraduates at the University of Connecticut enrolled in introductory psychology. The dependent measures were three subscales that measured different types of stigmatization. These measures were ratings of the targets' social acceptance, perceived success in life, and blameworthiness. Major findings revealed that in the first question, both male and female alcoholic targets are more stigmatized than male and female targets depicted in blameworthy behavior. However, female targets who are alcoholic are not more stigmatized than male targets who are alcoholic. In the second question, it was found that alcoholic women who do not violate gender roles are significantly less stigmatized than alcoholic women who do violate gender roles. They are also less stigmatized than male targets depicted in both a role violation and non role violation condition. Additionally, female raters were found to be more stigmatizing of both male and female alcoholic targets. The practical and clinical implications of these results are discussed as well as limitations in interpretation and suggestions for future research. ^