Families, culture, and mental illness: Constructing new realities

Harriet P. Lefley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


IN MODERN Western cultures, conceptual models of mental illness are interwoven with value systems of individualism, agency, internal locus of control, and fear of dependency. These values have translated into psychological theory and practice, affected families' relationships with the professional, legal, and consumer communities and have often exacerbated family burden. Culturally patterned attributions of individual accountability also affect family-patient interactions and may have an effect on relapse and prognosis. The family and consumer movements are discussed in terms of their orientations, services, social impact, and influence on epistemology, particularly with reference to the different effects of protective paternalism and individualistic autonomy. Questions are raised regarding cultural values and differential prognoses in modern and developing countries and whether the process of recovery may be shaped by different cultural introjects. It is suggested that the era of family and consumer empowerment may be heuristic in discovering parameters of mental illness and potential for recovery, and ideas are offered for future cross-cultural research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-355
Number of pages21
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Families, culture, and mental illness: Constructing new realities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this