Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

August 2008

Publication Title

American Sociological Association Annual Meeting


affective meanings, juvenile delinquents, modified labeling theory, self-meaning, stigma, stigma sentiments


Criminology | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology


We use “stigma sentiments” as a way to operationalize the stigma associated with a juvenile delinquency label. Stigma sentiments are the evaluation, potency, and activity (EPA) associated with the cultural category “a juvenile delinquent.” We find consistent support for the validity of the evaluation component as measures of these conceptions. Then we assess hypotheses derived from the modified labeling theory: we expect each stigma sentiment to be related positively to the corresponding dimension of self-identities among juvenile delinquents but unrelated to the corresponding dimension among non-delinquents. We find support for this hypothesis on the evaluation dimension. We also find two cross-dimensional results that were not anticipated. Specifically, among teenagers and young adults who have been adjudicated delinquent, the evaluation of “a juvenile delinquent” is positively related to self-evaluation, the potency of a “a juvenile delinquent” is negatively related to self-evaluation, and the activity of “a juvenile delinquent” is positively related to self-evaluation. By contrast, among teenagers and young adults who are not adjudicated delinquent, the meaning of the cultural category “a juvenile delinquent” is unrelated to self-evaluation. The results suggest that the cultural conceptions associated with the category of “a juvenile delinquent” do affect the self-meanings of individuals charged in juvenile delinquency court, although the connection is sometimes more complex than a one-to-one relationship between a stigma sentiment and its corresponding dimension of self meaning.