Memorable Messages Parents of Children with Vascular Birthmarks Receive from Others: Implications for Stigma and Identity

Anna M. Kerr, Charee M. Thompson, Valerie Rubinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Parents of children with visible illnesses and physical differences, such as vascular birthmarks (VBs), often fear that their child will be stigmatized by others. Despite their use of various strategies to minimize this stigma, parents still frequently receive comments and questions from others about their child’s condition. In the current study, we explore the source, content, and valence of these messages using a memorable messages framework. We also examine how parents react to messages from others and why those messages are considered memorable. To collect data, we administered a cross-sectional online survey through the website and social media pages of a national support group for parents of children with vascular birthmarks. A total of 70 parents completed the survey and, altogether, recalled 92 memorable messages. Our analyses revealed that the significance of the memorable messages coalesced around identity. Specifically, the messages described carried implications for a) participants in terms of their identities as parents, and b) participants’ children in terms of their identities as stigmatized individuals. When messages were directed at parents, parents appraised them negatively or positively to the extent that they made parents feel judged or validated as parents of children with VBs. When messages were directed at children, parents appraised them negatively or positively to the extent that they labeled children and their VB as abnormal, unattractive, and undesirable, or accepted and complimented children as unique, special, and beautiful. The current research extends previous research exploring the role of memorable messages in negotiating identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-695
Number of pages11
JournalHealth communication
Volume35
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - May 11 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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