Term of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

C. Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 1

Jessica Brooks

Committee Member 2

Amy Hackney


A history of substance use and having a history of legal charges can be a barrier to employment. Available research shows individuals with a criminal history of substance related charges have greater difficulty obtaining employment due to the presence of substance abuse stigma and criminal history stigma. Research also shows that employers with higher levels of fundamentalism and conservativism are more likely to negatively evaluate applicants with a criminal history of substance charges. Furthermore, available research demonstrates employers in rural areas are more likely to deny employment to an individual with a legal history of substance charges based upon higher rates of familiarity within the community. Stigma research shows personal contact with a stigmatized population can reduce stigma. This study set out to determine if changing the response on the legal history section of an employment application would have an effect on mock employer’s evaluations of job applications. In order to examine this, 458 participants were randomly assigned to read an employment application in one of three conditions. The only difference in the applications was the legal history section, which varied as “none,” “possession of a controlled substance,” or “will discuss.” Participants also completed measures of substance use stigma, conservativism, and fundamentalism. Further, participants’ geographic region (rural vs. non-rural) was examined. Results showed the only significant predictor of not granting an interview was the presence of a legal charge. The findings demonstrated listing ‘will discuss’ on the legal history section reduces the chances of obtaining an interview. Implications of the current study indicate that personal values or rural status should not be a main focus of intervention when trying to reduce stigma for individuals with a legal history of substance charges. Limitations of the study include lack of a robust manipulation check and limited risk in granting an interview. Future studies should focus on research designs that incorporate a limited number of available interview opportunities, and examine whether other legal charges would have similar effects in employment application.

Research Data and Supplementary Material