To read this content please select one of the options below:

Stigma as a dominant discourse in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Peter Choate (Department of Child Studies and Social Work, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada)
Dorothy Badry (Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)

Advances in Dual Diagnosis

ISSN: 1757-0972

Article publication date: 5 December 2018

Issue publication date: 28 February 2019




The purpose of this paper is to conduct a scoping review of the literature to explore the many ways stigma affects people with FASD and to highlight the disciplines and places where discourse on FASD and stigma is taking place.


Searches were conducted in PubMed, ERIC, Family & Society Studies Worldwide, Families Studies Abstracts and Google Scholar between 2008 and 2018. Search terms focused on stigma, shame and the connection to FASD with a view to looking across social and medical science literature.


Searches identified 39 full text manuscripts, 13 of which were included in the scoping review. Stigma toward people with FASD exists in multiple professional forums across disciplines. The relationship between mother’s use of alcohol and the lasting impact on the child is a focus in the articles identified from a public health perspective. The review showed there was limited cross-disciplinary discussion evident. In total 13 articles were selected for inclusion in this review.

Research limitations/implications

Negative discourses predominate with little attention being paid to possible areas of success as well as cases of lower FASD impacts. There is a significant void in work focusing on positive outcomes for people with FASD. Such discourse would support a better understanding of pathways to more positive outcomes.


This paper highlights the issue of FASD and stigma through identification of relevant literature and expands the conversation to offer insights into the challenging terrain that individuals with FASD must navigate. The issue of stigma is not linked only to individuals with FASD but also their support systems. It is critical to recognize the multiple attributions of stigma to FASD in order to effectively take up conversations across and between disciplines to promote new discourses focused on de-stigmatization.



Choate, P. and Badry, D. (2019), "Stigma as a dominant discourse in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder", Advances in Dual Diagnosis, Vol. 12 No. 1/2, pp. 36-52.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles