Among South Asian women, epidemiological studies identify a strong link between marital and family problems and a wide range of health problems. Studies of women in the South Asian diaspora suggest the vulnerability of married women in immigrant communities, compared to native women. The present study examines how women understand this link by examining their conceptual representations of the causal relationship between marriage roles, health and illness. Using qualitative methods and a model of illness representation from health psychology literature, 35 traditional South Asian immigrant women living in New York City were interviewed. Results indicate that problems associated with marriage roles, including marital and affinal family conflict, domestic overwork and isolation were viewed as extremely serious and were associated conceptually with a variety of health problems. Two overlapping sociosomatic models of marital illness emerge in the findings. One model revolves around a semantic framework of ideas associated with pressure and tension that lead to illness, either mental or physical. The other model focuses on notions of weakness and deficiency. Women's sociosomatic models reveal a complex understanding of the role of social stress in illness. These models are shaped both by traditional humoral concepts and by modern biomedical models.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology