Impact of stigmatizing language describing opioid-exposed mother infant dyads: A randomized case vignette study

Davida M. Schiff*, Alese E. Halvorson, William Dupont, Matthew M. Davis, Stephen W. Patrick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Existing literature suggests that using stigmatizing language may promote negative attitudes and result in more punitive views toward individuals with addiction. It is unclear how the commonly used colloquial terms to describe opioid-exposed mother infant dyads impacts public opinion of pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD). We sought to examine the extent to which language such as “opioid addict” and “born addicted” influences the perception of pregnant women with OUD. Methods: We conducted a randomized case-based vignette study using a population-weighted sample of parents living in Tennessee, varying in the language used to describe an opioid-exposed mother infant dyad. Participant demographics, views on opioid prescribing, and opinions on criminal justice and child welfare responses following delivery were obtained. Ordinal logistic regression was used to examine the association between vignette type and punitive responses. Results: Eleven hundred participants completed the survey. Overall, 30.6% felt the mother should be arrested and 68.6% felt the mother should lose custody of her infant. There was insufficient evidence to suggest a difference in punitive response selection based on the vignette language (p = 0.27). In the adjusted model, the odds of answering a more punitive response among parents who received non-stigmatizing language was 0.8 (95% CI 0.59–1.08) compared to parents who received stigmatizing language in the vignette. Conclusions: Many parents hold punitive views toward mothers receiving OUD treatment that was not altered by using less value-laden language. Broader stigma-reduction interventions may be more effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSubstance Abuse
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • child welfare
  • language
  • opioid use disorder
  • parenting
  • perinatal
  • punitive
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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