Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a group of developmental disabilities that may result from the mother’s consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. The present study examined the effects of health literacy and stigma on the public health agenda for preventing FASD.
Three hundred and forty-one participants were sampled to ascertain levels of endorsement of the public health priorities of FASD, and FASD health literacy. Stigma towards women who consume alcohol during pregnancy, and towards biological mothers of children with FASD were operationalized using ratings of difference and disdain.
Public stigma towards women who consume alcohol during pregnancy was greater than stigma towards biological mothers of children with FASD. Research participants with higher FASD literacy were more likely to endorse the prevention priorities of FASD, but also more likely to endorse greater stigma towards biological mothers of children with FASD. Interestingly, those who endorsed greater stigma supported the public health priorities of FASD more strongly. Female research participants more strongly supported the prevention priorities of FASD than male participants. Male participants were more likely to endorse stigma than female participants.
Stigma experienced by biological mothers of children with FASD generalizes to women who consume alcohol while pregnant. Some results were contrary to expectations: stigma was positively associated with health literacy and endorsement of prevention priorities of FASD. Reasons for these findings are speculated and should be tested in future research.
(Health literacy is defined as the ability of an individual to access, understand, and use health-related information and services to make appropriate health decisions.)