Incorporating the Cultural Diversity of Family and Close Relationships Into the Study of Health

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Abstract

Relationships are at the center of the human social environment, and their quality and longevity are now recognized to have particular relevance for health. The goal of this article is to bring attention to the role of culture in how relationships, particularly close relationships and family relationships, influence health. To this end, 2 contexts that are characterized by 2 distinct forms of cultural collectivism (East Asian and Latino) are spotlighted to highlight the unique patterns that underlie broader cultural categories (e.g., collectivism). In addition, related research on other understudied cultures and nonethnic or nonnational forms of culture (e.g., social class, religion) is also discussed. The review centers on social support, a key pathway through which relationships shape psychological and physical health, as the psychological process that has received the most empirical attention in this area. Overall, it is clear that new and more systematic approaches are needed to generate a more comprehensive, novel, and inclusive understanding of the role of culture in relationship processes that shape health. Three recommendations are offered for researchers and professionals to generate and incorporate knowledge of culture-specific relationship processes into their understanding of health.

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