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Br J Psychiatry. 1987 Oct;151:447-54.

Anthropology and psychiatry. The role of culture in cross-cultural research on illness.

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  • 1Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


To illustrate the contribution anthropology can make to cross-cultural and international research in psychiatry, four questions have been put to the cross-cultural research literature and discussed from an anthropological point of view: 'To what extent do psychiatric disorders differ in different societies?' 'Does the tacit model of pathogenicity/pathoplasticity exaggerate the biological aspects of cross-cultural findings and blur their cultural dimensions?' 'What is the place of translation in cross-cultural studies?' and 'Does the standard format for conducting cross-cultural studies in psychiatry create a category fallacy?' Anthropology contributes to each of these concerns an insistence that the problem of cross-cultural validity be given the same attention as the question of reliability, that the concept of culture be operationalised as a research variable, and that cultural analysis be applied to psychiatry's own taxonomies and methods rather than just to indigenous illness beliefs of native populations.

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