This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface


The Symbolic Interactionist Approach



Download 4.42 Mb.
Page91/137
Date31.05.2016
Size4.42 Mb.
1   ...   87   88   89   90   91   92   93   94   ...   137

The Symbolic Interactionist Approach


The symbolic interactionist approach emphasizes that health and illness aresocial constructions. This means that various physical and mental conditions have little or no objective reality but instead are considered healthy or ill conditions only if they are defined as such by a society and its members (Buckser, 2009; Lorber & Moore, 2002). [5] The ADHD example just discussed also illustrates symbolic interactionist theory’s concerns, as a behavior that was not previously considered an illness came to be defined as one after the development of Ritalin. In another example first discussed in Chapter 7 "Alcohol and Other Drugs", in the late 1800s opium use was quite common in the United States, as opium derivatives were included in all sorts of over-the-counter products. Opium use was considered neither a major health nor legal problem. That changed by the end of the century, as prejudice against Chinese Americans led to the banning of the opium dens (similar to today’s bars) they frequented, and calls for the banning of opium led to federal legislation early in the twentieth century that banned most opium products except by prescription (Musto, 2002). [6]

In a more current example, an attempt to redefine obesity is now under way in the United States. Obesity is a known health risk, but a “fat pride” or “fat acceptance” movement composed mainly of heavy individuals is arguing that obesity’s health risks are exaggerated and calling attention to society’s discrimination against overweight people. Although such discrimination is certainly unfortunate, critics say the movement is going too far in trying to minimize obesity’s risks (Diamond, 2011). [7]

The symbolic interactionist approach has also provided important studies of the interaction between patients and health-care professionals. Consciously or not, physicians “manage the situation” to display their authority and medical knowledge. Patients usually have to wait a long time for the physician to show up, and the physician is often in a white lab coat; the physician is also often addressed as “Doctor,” while patients are often called by their first name. Physicians typically use complex medical terms to describe a patient’s illness instead of the more simple terms used by laypeople and the patients themselves.

Management of the situation is perhaps especially important during a gynecological exam, as first discussed in Chapter 12 "Work and the Economy". When the physician is a man, this situation is fraught with potential embarrassment and uneasiness because a man is examining and touching a woman’s genital area. Under these circumstances, the physician must act in a purely professional manner. He must indicate no personal interest in the woman’s body and must instead treat the exam no differently from any other type of exam. To further “desex” the situation and reduce any potential uneasiness, a female nurse is often present during the exam.

Critics fault the symbolic interactionist approach for implying that no illnesses have objective reality. Many serious health conditions do exist and put people at risk for their health regardless of what they or their society thinks. Critics also say the approach neglects the effects of social inequality for health and illness. Despite these possible faults, the symbolic interactionist approach reminds us that health and illness do have a subjective as well as an objective reality.


KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • A sociological understanding emphasizes the influence of people’s social backgrounds on the quality of their health and health care. A society’s culture and social structure also affect health and health care.

  • The functionalist approach emphasizes that good health and effective health care are essential for a society’s ability to function, and it views the physician-patient relationship as hierarchical.

  • The conflict approach emphasizes inequality in the quality of health and in the quality of health care.

  • The interactionist approach emphasizes that health and illness are social constructions; physical and mental conditions have little or no objective reality but instead are considered healthy or ill conditions only if they are defined as such by a society and its members.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. Which approach—functionalist, conflict, or symbolic interactionist—do you most favor regarding how you understand health and health care? Explain your answer.

  2. Think of the last time you visited a physician or another health-care professional. In what ways did this person come across as an authority figure possessing medical knowledge? In formulating your answer, think about the person’s clothing, body position and body language, and other aspects of nonverbal communication.

[1] Parsons, T. (1951). The social system. New York, NY: Free Press.

[2] Weitz, R. (2013). The sociology of health, illness, and health care: A critical approach (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Wadsworth.

[3] Whitehead, K., & Kurz, T. (2008). Saints, sinners and standards of femininity: Discursive constructions of anorexia nervosa and obesity in women’s magazines. Journal of Gender Studies, 17, 345–358.

[4] Conrad, P. (2008). The medicalization of society: On the transformation of human conditions into treatable disorders. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; Rao, A., & Seaton, M. (2010). The way of boys: Promoting the social and emotional development of young boys. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks.

[5] Buckser, A. (2009). Institutions, agency, and illness in the making of Tourette syndrome.Human Organization, 68(3), 293–306; Lorber, J., & Moore, L. J. (2002). Gender and the social construction of illness (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

[6] Musto, D. F. (Ed.). (2002). Drugs in America: A documentary history. New York, NY: New York University Press.

[7] Diamond, A. (2011). Acceptance of fat as the norm is a cause for concern. Nursing Standard, 25(38), 28–28.



Directory: site -> textbooks
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License
textbooks -> Preface for Teachers
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface
textbooks -> Chapter 1 Introduction to Law and Legal Systems
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Organization


Share with your friends:
1   ...   87   88   89   90   91   92   93   94   ...   137




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page