Original Research

Considering the cultural context in psychopathology formulations

Junaid Hassim, Claire Wagner
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 19, No 1 | a400 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v19i1.400 | © 2013 Junaid Hassim, Claire Wagner | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 September 2012 | Published: 01 March 2013

About the author(s)

Junaid Hassim, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pretoria, Weskoppies Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa
Claire Wagner, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa

Share this article

Bookmark and Share


Background. Mental health research appears to be continually transforming. Recent literature reflects a greater appreciation for the ways in which pathoplastic features of culture modulate emotional regulation. This article introduces those aspects of the literature which explore the (re)consideration of culture as a dynamic and essential construct in the clinical formulation of psychopathology.

Objectives. The study aims to review literature that focuses on the dynamic influence of culture in psychopathology. Furthermore, the researchers aim to present a view on the ways in which culture appeared to shape the topography of psychopathology nosology.

Method. A literature review of 31 sources. Results. The review indicated that 29 literature sources were conceptual in design, suggesting a great need for more empirical research. This section also explored themes identified during the literature review. The literature was tabulated according to features and emerging themes. Three major themes were identified and included: the cultural context; the evolving definitions of culture; and culture and psychopathology.

Conclusion/discussion. An analysis of the themes was offered. The authors concluded by highlighting the significance of the literature at present. Areas of particular interest suggested that health and behaviour are dependent, at least in part, on culture; psychopathology may also be appreciated as a social construct; culture influences psychopathology regardless of the aetiology; diagnostic classes do not adequately consider operational definitions; and a greater focus on hermeneutic perceptivity in appreciating cultural dynamics in psychopathology will benefit clinical assessment.


Psychopathology; culture; literature review; psychological distress; integrative psychology


Total abstract views: 1575
Total article views: 21943


Crossref Citations

1. The Social Construction of PTSD: The Case of the ‘Old Guard’ Policemen After South African Democracy
Sharon Auld, Duncan Cartwright
Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry  year: 2019  
doi: 10.1007/s11013-019-09649-2