Health and Illness in the Context of the Family

Authored by: Melissa A. Alderfer , Caroline M. Stanley

Handbook of Health Psychology

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780805864618
eBook ISBN: 9780203804100
Adobe ISBN: 9781136638299


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The social nature of human beings almost invariably dictates that multiple people contribute to and are impacted by the health or illness of any given individual. We each exist within a series of social contexts (Bronfenbrenner, 1977), ranging from small networks such as family and friends to broad social constructions such national values, public policy, and socioeconomics. Although personal characteristics (e.g., gender, biological predispositions), thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors contribute greatly to individuals’ health status, so too do individuals’ interactions with others. Of course, for most individuals, the most immediate and important of these social contexts is the family system.

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