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Publication Date

8-2002

Abstract

This paper describes the developing area of cultural psychopathology, an interdisciplinary field of study focusing on the ways in which cultural factors contribute to the experience and expression of psychological distress. We begin by outlining two approaches, often competing, in order to provide a background to some of the issues that complicate the field. The main section of the paper is devoted to a discussion of depression in Chinese culture as an example of the types of questions that can be studied. Here, we start with a review of the epidemiological literature, suggesting low rates of depression in China, and move to the most commonly cited explanation, namely that Chinese individuals with depression present this distress in a physical way. Different explanations of this phenomenon, known as somatization, are explored and reconceptualized according to an increasingly important model for cross-cultural psychologists: the cultural constitution of the self. We close by discussing some of the contributions, both theoretical and methodological, that can be made by cross-cultural psychologists to researchers in cultural psychopathology.

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