Personality as a potential moderator of the relationship between stigma and help-seeking

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2009-01-01
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Miller, Phillip
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Norman A. Scott
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Psychology
The Department of Psychology may prepare students with a liberal study, or for work in academia or professional education for law or health-services. Graduates will be able to apply the scientific method to human behavior and mental processes, as well as have ample knowledge of psychological theory and method.
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Many persons who could potentially benefit from psychological services do not seek help or follow through with treatment. While there are a variety of reasons why an individual might not pursue psychological treatment, the stigma associated with seeking help has been identified as a significant obstacle. Stigma, the perception that one is flawed, is based upon a real or imagined personal characteristic that is deemed socially unacceptable. Two types of stigma (i.e., public stigma and self-stigma) are involved in the help-seeking process and serve to decrease positive attitudes toward help- seeking and one's willingness to seek counseling. Researchers have recognized that dimensions of one's personality (e.g., the Big Five), a pervasive aspect of human behavior, are likely to influence one's experience of stigma and the role that stigma plays in one's decision to seek help. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the role of personality in the relationship between stigma and one's attitudes towards seeking professional assistance from a mental healthcare provider. The general hypothesis is that personality will play a moderating role in the relationship between the public stigma of seeking help and the self-stigma of seeking help, as well as the relationship between self-stigma and attitudes towards counseling. Based upon the general hypothesis, four specific hypotheses were formulated: 1) Neuroticism will amplify the statistically positive relationship between public stigma and self-stigma. 2) Neuroticism will amplify the statistically negative relationship between self-stigma and attitudes towards counseling. 3) Extraversion will moderate the relationship between public stigma and self-stigma and act as a "buffer," so that persons with high reported Extraversion will have lower levels of self-stigma compared to individuals with low reported Extraversion. 4) Extraversion will moderate the relationship between self-stigma and attitudes towards counseling and act to enhance the relationship. University student participants (N = 784) completed an online survey with a response rate of 89.4%. The survey consisted of six parts: the IPIP NEO, SSOSH, SSRPH, ATSPPH-S, HSCL-21, and a six item demographics questionnaire. The results indicated that Neuroticism moderates the relationship between public stigma and self-stigma, but not the relationship between self-stigma and attitudes towards counseling. Even after controlling for gender, prior treatment, and psychological distress the relationships remained. It was found that as public stigma increased, those high on Neuroticism reported less self-stigma than those low on Neuroticism. Additionally, the results showed that Extraversion moderated the relationship between public stigma and self-stigma, but not the relationship between self-stigma and attitudes towards counseling, even after controlling for gender, prior treatment, and psychological distress. Those high on Extraversion reported less self-stigma at low levels of public stigma, however at high levels of public stigma those high on Extraversion reported feeling more self-stigma than those low in Extraversion. It was also found that prior exposure to treatment lessened the amount of self-stigma. Possible explanations for the findings are discussed, including the implications of the results for counseling psychology, theoretical implications, and the strengths and limitations of the study.

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Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2009