Cultural Factors in Sick-Role Expectations

  • Alexander Segall


“Every human society faces the prospect of sickness and each one has developed its own general cultural adaptations for it, which constitute its solutions” (Simmons & Wolff, 1954, p. 74). Culture serves as a subtle, but systematic influence upon the way in which the members of any society perceive the world around them. The distinctive way of life which characterizes a particular group or subgroup of a society includes the health-related behavior of its members. For example, “cultures and subcultural groups vary in the extent to which they perceive a set of circumstances as constituting illness or health, abnormality or normalcy, as calling for action or disregarding” (King, 1962, p. 67).


Behavioral Dimension Sociocultural Factor Role Expectation Russell Sage Foundation Illness Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arluke, A., Kennedy, L., & Kessler, R. C. (1979). Re-examining the sick-role concept: An empirical assessment. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 20, 30–36.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Battistella, R. M. (1970). Status consistency: Health status and adoption of the sick role among late adulthood persons. Medical Care, 8, 333–342.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berkanovic, E. (1972). Lay conceptions of the sick role. Social Forces, 51, 53–64.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, J., & Rawlinson, M. (1975). Relinquishing the sick role following open-heart surgery. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 16, 12–27.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Butler, J. R. (1970). Illness and the sick role: An evaluation in three communities. The British Journal of Sociology, 21, 241–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cockerham, W. C. (1983). The state of medical sociology in the United States, Great Britain, West Germany and Austria: Applied vs. pure theory. Social Science and Medicine, 20, 1513–1527.Google Scholar
  7. Croog, S. H. (1961). Ethnic origins and responses to health questionnaires. Human Organization, 20, 65–69.Google Scholar
  8. Gallagher, E. B. (1976). Lines of reconstruction and extension in the Parsonian sociology of illness. Social Science and Medicine, 10, 207–218.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gerhardt, U. (1979). The Parsonian paradigm and the identity of medical sociology. Sociological Review, 27, 229–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gordon, G. (1966). Role theory and illness: A sociological perspective. New Haven, CT: College & University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Graham, S., & Reeder, L. G. (1979). Social epidemiology of chronic disease. In H. E. Freeman, S. Levine, & L. G. Reeder (Eds.), Handbook of medical sociology (pp. 71–96). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  12. Harwood, A. (1981). Ethnicity and medical care. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Honig-Parnass, T. (1981). Lay concepts of the sick-role: An examination of the professionalist bias in Parsons’ model. Social Science and Medicine, 15A, 615–623.Google Scholar
  14. Honig-Parnass, T. (1983). The relative impact of status and health variables upon sick-role expectations. Medical Care, 21, 208–224.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson, M. L. (1975). Medical sociology and sociological theory. Social Science and Medicine, 9, 227–232.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. King, S. H. (1962). Perceptions of illness and medical practice. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  17. Levine, S., & Kozloff, M. A. (1978). The sick role: Assessment and overview. Annual Review of Sociology, 4, 317–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McCormack, T. (1981). The new criticism and the sick role. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 18, 30–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mechanic, D. (1963). Religion, religiosity, and illness behavior. Human Organization, 22, 202–208.Google Scholar
  20. Mechanic, D., & Volkart, E. H. (1961). Stress, illness behavior and the sick role. American Sociological Review, 26, 51–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Parsons, T. (1951). The social system. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  22. Petroni, F. A. (1969a). Social class, family size and the sick role. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 31, 728–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Petroni, F. A. (1969b). Significant others and illness behavior: A much neglected sick role contingency. Sociological Quarterly, 10, 32–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Phillips, D. L. (1965). Self-reliance and the inclination to adopt the sick role. Social Forces, 43, 555–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Plaja, A. O., Cohen, L. M., & Samora, J. (1968). Communication between physicians and patients in outpatient clinics: Social and cultural factors. Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, 46, 161–213.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Reeder, L. G., & Berkanovic, E. (1973). Sociological concomitants of health orientations: A partial replication of Suchman. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 14, 134–143.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Saunders, L. (1954). Cultural differences and medical care. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  28. Segall, A. (1976a). The sick role concept: Understanding illness behavior. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 17, 163–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Segall, A. (1976b). Sociocultural variation in sick role behavioural expectations. Social Science and Medicine, 10, 47–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Segall, A., & Currie, R. F. (1983). Selected findings from the 1983 Winnipeg Area Study (Winnipeg Area Series Report No. 1). University of Manitoba: The Institute for Social and Economic Research.Google Scholar
  31. Simmons, L. W., & Wolff, H. G. (1954). Social science in medicine. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  32. Sternbach, R. A. (1968). Pain: A psychophysiological analysis. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  33. Sternbach, R. A., & Tursky, B. (1965). Ethnic differences among housewives in psychophysical and skin potential responses to electric shock. Psychophysiology, 1, 241–246.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Suchman, E. A. (1964). Sociomedical variations among ethnic groups. American Journal of Sociology, 70, 319–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Twaddle, A. C. (1969). Health decisions and sick role variations: An exploration. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 10, 105–114.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wolinsky, F. D., & Wolinsky, S. R. (1981). Expecting sick-role legitimation and getting it. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 229–242.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zborowski, M. (1969). People in pain. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  38. Zola, I. K. (1966). Culture and symptoms: An analysis of patients’ presenting complaints. American Sociological Review, 31, 615–630.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Segall
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

Personalised recommendations