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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

2 - Cultural dimensions of the stress process: measurement issues in fieldwork



The aim of this chapter is to examine measurement issues in the social and cultural study of the stress process. More specifically, the aim is to clarify a methodological orientation that can guide anthropologists and other fieldworkers interested in stress processes within specific social and cultural contexts. As such, this chapter is partly a review of how stress has been measured in many different studies, and partly an examination of the logic of measurement in anthropology and how it can be improved to understand the stress process. The chapter is intended as a supplement to the volume edited by Cohen et al. (1995) that reviewed issues of measurement in studies of the stress. It helps to extend that review in terms of addressing questions pertinent to the study of social and cultural dimensions of the stress process.

Culture and the stress process

In Chapter 1, Ice and James outlined the general conceptual model that guides much of research on the stress process. As they make clear, at one level it can be difficult to separate elements of the process (e.g. when is an environmental challenge an acute or a chronic stressor or when is the emotional state of the individual indicative of a stress appraisal or a coping response?). At the same time, for there to be a sensible measurement model applied to the process, conceptual distinctions need to be made.

In this chapter, I will adhere to the model outlined in Chapter 1, but with a few additions.

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