Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication and Information

Major Professor

Candace White

Committee Members

Roxanne Hovland, Michael Palenchar, Robert Levey

Abstract

Culture impacts the ways people evaluate and respond to health and illness. As a result, Mexican-American culture plays a part in how women take care of their heath and react toward the threat of breast cancer. Using previously identified dominant cultural factors that may influence the health of Mexican-American women as a foundation, this qualitative study describes how Mexican-American women define and maintain health, particularly breast health.

Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the United States. As a result, it is important to better understand how Mexican-American women define health and take care of themselves. Doing so will not only provide richer insights into the health behaviors of women but provide insights into family health behaviors. This study is important because it adds to the current body of knowledge by investigating the cultural beliefs of Mexican-American women, a sub-group within the larger Hispanic ethnic category. While several researchers have studied the cultural beliefs of Hispanics, it is imperative that scholars begin to further investigate the cultural beliefs of the sub-groups within the larger Hispanic ethnic category. In addition, previous studies have primarily been conducted in states that border Mexico, thus providing an opportunity for this study to contribute to the current body of literature by giving a voice to Mexican-American women in the southeast.

Using a grounded theory approach, ten in-depth interviews were conducted with Mexican-American women in the southeast. The main theme that emerged from the data was: The Maintenance of Health through Traditional Practices in a Non-native Environment. Two thematic constructs that participants engage in helped to describe how the women in the study maintain health in a traditional manner when they live in a nonnative environment: (1) the belief that health is a combination of the body and mind and (2) the belief that health care is a Mexican woman’s responsibility.

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