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Stigmatizing Indebtedness: Implications for Labeling Theory

Terrell A. Hayes
Symbolic Interaction
Vol. 23, No. 1 (2000), pp. 29-46
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction
DOI: 10.1525/si.2000.23.1.29
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/si.2000.23.1.29
Page Count: 18
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Stigmatizing Indebtedness: Implications for Labeling Theory
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Abstract

Given the low visibility of indebtedness and normative expectations regarding the use of credit and the accrual of debt, questions arise as to whether or not being unable to manage one's finances responsibly should necessarily lead a person to feel shame. Findings from a study, based on forty-six interviews with members of Debtors Anonymous (DA), exploring the relevance of labeling theory to individual perceptions of one's indebtedness as shameful are presented. Shame is revealed to be a key element in the labeling process. How stigmatized labels arise in interaction, how such labels affect a person's thoughts, feelings, and actions, and how gender affects labeling experiences are discussed. Insights into the interconnections between labeling and shame show the labeling process to be considerably more complex than suggested in the original version of labeling theory.

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