Guilty Perpetrator or Innocent Victim?: An Analysis of the Social Construction of Diabetes.

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


The effects of health-related stigma have been the subject of a substantial amount of research on conditions like HIV/AIDS, COPD, and type two diabetes. It has been found that those who experience health-relate stigma often suffer from consequences such as a hesitance to disclose information about their condition and an avoidance of social interaction for fear of being judged or rejected by others. However, these have been a lack of research surrounding the effects of stigma on people with type one diabetes. The aim of this study is to analyze the impacts of type one diabetes-related stigma on the self-esteem and identity of adults with type one and to also examine how these experiences influence the way these individuals feel about their condition. For the purpose of this study, ten semi-structured interviews were conducted over the phone with participants over the age of eighteen and who had been diagnosed with type one diabetes for at least one year. The findings suggest that most participants have not experienced type one diabetes-related stigma but have instead experienced stigma associated with type two diabetes or diabetes in general. Participants then identified these stigmatizing experiences as being due to misinformed judgments that their condition was self-inflicted. The findings also reveal that type one diabetes has had largely positive impacts on the self-esteem and identity of participants due to largely positive interactions with friends, family and health-professionals. These findings not only uncover the social tendency to stigmatize illnesses that are perceived as self-inflicted while sympathizing with diseases that are believed to be caused by uncontrollable factors, but also identify how the causes of illnesses impact the social construction of disease stigma that categorizes individuals with chronic illnesses as either guilty or innocent for their condition. The findings also reveal that experiences surrounding camp programs have strong impacts on the self-esteem and identity of those with chronic illnesses and reveal how these programs can be utilized to develop resilient individuals that can confidently face health-related stigma. Due to camp’s strong influences on children with chronic illnesses, these recreational programs can be employed as a form of disease treatment or therapy.


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