Abstract.

Background

People with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and women who drink alcohol while pregnant can experience stigma, possibly exacerbated by stereotyped media portrayals.

Method

To understand experiences of FASD stakeholders and reactions to news coverage, we conducted twelve focus groups across three categories: (1) people with FASD; (2) caregivers; and (3) professionals. Themes were identified using framework analysis.

Results

We identified stereotypes about: (1) FASD (e.g., negative life trajectories); (2) alcohol and pregnancy (e.g., bad mothers); and (3) non-biological caregivers. Participants identified potential effects of FASD stereotypes (e.g., self-fulfilling prophecies) and alcohol and pregnancy stereotypes (e.g., exacerbating difficult decisions about disclosing a child’s adoptive status).

Conclusions

Our results align with research about difficult experiences of FASD stakeholders. However, while Canadian news analyses found people with FASD portrayed as criminals, our participants identified mostly non-crime stereotypes. Participants also sometimes shifted the burden of motherhood stereotypes from low-income to higher-income women.

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