SAGE Journal Articles

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Mental Disorder Stigmatization

Spriggs, M., Olsson, C. A., & Hall, W. (2008). How will information about the genetic risk of mental disorders impact on stigma? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 42, 214-220.


As we make advances in understanding which genes are responsible for specific mental disorders, we also open the door on being able to test for these disorders before symptoms are presented. The goal for this article is to determine if genetic testing for mental disorders will provide positive outcomes, such as early interventions, or create stigmas that may cause a self-fulfilling prophesy. The authors outline the origins of stigmas surrounding mental disorders and identify several points to keep in mind when determining if genetic testing for mental disorders will help or hurt those tested.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What additional factors may be involved in the development of stigmas surrounding mental illness?
  2. What types of community based initiatives could be designed to eliminate or reduce the stigmas surrounding mental illness?
  3. The authors suggest it might be problematic for parents to be able to consent to genetic testing if their child is not capable of providing informed consent. What are some of the ethical considerations that make this problematic?

Gene-Environment Interactions

Kim-Cohen, J. & Gold, A. (2009). Measured gene-environment interactions and mechanisms promoting resilient development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 138-142.


One question that has intrigued researchers for years is how some people are able to overcome extreme levels of adversity. This article describes two genes, MAOA and 5-HTT, which may help to explain why some are more resilient than others. Those who carry a ‘protective’ allele are less likely to be affected by maltreatment than those who carry a ‘vulnerable’ allele. This gene-environment interaction suggests children who are genetically vulnerable to maltreatment may actually function better if provided with a warm and nurturing environment than those with the protective gene.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. There has been a debate surrounding the use of genetic testing. What are some of the benefits of testing for the two genes suggested to be involved in resiliency?
  2. In thinking about the ideas of eugenics and Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, are there any benefits to having this ‘vulnerable’ allele? If not, how is it that this weakness has not yet been eliminated via natural selection?
  3. We see similar differences in vulnerability to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Could the same techniques used here be applied to people suffering from PTSD? Is it possible those with the ‘vulnerable’ allele might be the ones who are more likely to develop PTSD while those with the ‘protective’ allele are less likely to develop PTSD?