Mental health-related stigma is poorly understood, and minimal research has focused on the experience of stigma from children’s perspectives. We sought to investigate whether children treated as inpatients and outpatients had different experiences of stigma over time and whether stigma is linked to global functioning cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Children, aged 8–12 years, receiving treatment within a national specialist mental health inpatient unit were matched for age, gender and diagnosis with children receiving outpatient treatment (N = 64). Validated measures of stigma, global functioning and symptom severity were collected at the start of treatment and upon discharge from the ward for inpatients, and a similar timeframe for their individually matched outpatients. Latent change score models and partial correlation coefficients were employed to test our hypotheses. No differences in most aspects of stigma between children treated as inpatients and outpatients were observed, except for personal rejection at baseline and self-stigma at follow-up favouring outpatients. A reduction in stigma was observed in societal devaluation, personal rejection and secrecy for inpatients, and self-stigma and secrecy for outpatients between the two assessments. Societal devaluation declined at a higher rate among inpatients compared to outpatients, albeit reductions in stigma were comparable for all remaining measures. No association was found between the change in stigma and change in global functioning. Future research may offer further insights into the development and maintenance of stigma and identify key targets for anti-stigma interventions to reduce its long-term impact.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Early online date9 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Nov 2021


  • Children
  • Global functioning
  • Inpatient
  • Mental health treatment
  • Outpatient
  • Stigma


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