The Impact of Criminal Record Stigma on Quality of Life: A Test of Theoretical Pathways [2020]

Across multiple stigmatized groups, research suggests that stigma may negatively impact individual wellbeing. This impact often occurs through a sequential pathway that includes perceiving societal stigma, a diminished and stereotyped self‐concept (i.e., internalized stigma), experiences of discrimination and rejection, and attempts to cope with stigma (e.g., secrecy or withdrawal). While prior research supports individual links within this pathway, no study has evaluated a model representing the relationships between all of these factors in relation to criminal record stigma. This study utilized cross‐sectional data from an online survey of 198 adults to test the pathways through which criminal record‐related stigma impacts individual quality of life. The results indicated that perceived stigma was a significant predictor of discrimination and rejection experiences, secrecy coping strategies, and decreased quality of life. There was also a significant indirect association between perceived stigma and quality of life through secrecy coping. Consistent with recent criminal record stigma research, internalized stigma was low among respondents. These findings point to the importance of reducing criminal record stigma and discrimination, so that individuals with criminal records have more opportunities to enhance their quality of life without having to withdraw from society or keep their record a secret.

Elaina R. McWilliams, Bronwyn A. Hunter
American Journal of Community Psychology, 10 August 2020