Social Causes of Psychological Distress: Second Edition / Edition 2

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Overview

A core interest of social science is the study of stratification--inequalities in income, power, and prestige. Few persons would care about such inequalities if the poor, powerless, and despised were as happy and fulfilled as the wealthy, powerful, and admired. Social research often springs from humanistic empathy and concern as much as from scholarly and scientific curiosity. An economist might observe that black Americans are disproportionately poor, and investigate racial differences in education, employment, and occupation that account for disproportionate poverty. A table comparing additional income blacks and whites can expect for each additional year of education is thus as interesting in its own right as any dinosaur bone or photo of Saturn. However, something more than curiosity underscores our interest in the table. Racial differences in status and income are a problem in the human sense. Inequality in misery makes social and economic inequality personally meaningful. There are two ways social scientists avoid advocacy in addressing issues of social stratification. The first way is to resist projecting personal beliefs, values, and responses as much as possible, while recognizing that the attempt is never fully successful. The second way is by giving the values of the subjects an expression in the research design. Typically, this takes the form of opinion or attitude surveys. Researchers ask respondents to rate the seriousness of crimes, the appropriateness of a punishment for a crime, the prestige of occupations, the fair pay for a job, or the largest amount of money a family can earn and not be poor, and so on. The aggregate judgments, and variations in judgments, represent the values of the subjects and not those of the researcher. They are objective facts with causes and consequences of interest in their own right. This work is an effort to move methodology closer to human concerns without sacrificing the scientific grounds of research as such. The authors succeed admirably in this complex and yet worthwhile task. This is a work that could be helpful to those in all branches of the social sciences that take up issues relating to inequality and the uneven distribution of the social goods of a nation. John Mirowsky and Catherine E. Ross are professors in the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center at the University of Texas.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A look at community patterns of well-being and distress, mapping the relationship of feelings to social conditions and positions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher

“Mirowsky and Ross employ a sociological perspective in their analysis of individuals' social distress… This volume provides an excellent counterbalance to the many journal articles and books that emphasize psychoanalytic, general psychological, and biological explanations of distress. For community college students, upper-division undergraduates, and graduate students.”

A. G. Halberstadt, Choice

“Sociologists Mirowsky and Ross challenge traditional understandings of distress (psychiatric and psychological) in this integration of their own research with a review of the literature on the social causes of distress. . . . [T]he book will be remembered more charitably over time, for it dares to sojourn into worlds where few have dared to tread. It charts a course that others will want to follow.”

—Luther B. Otto, Contemporary Sociology

Social Causes of Psychological Distress seeks to describe and explain the social patterning of psychological well-being and distress. It is not simply a review of the sociological literature on mental health, however, but a keenly and intentionally partisan book. The authors, John Mirowsky and Catherin E. Ross, not only reject genetic, biochemical, and life-changing explanations of the social patterns of distress but also advocate a particular conceptual and methodological approach to the study of psychopathology, one that favors symptom scales over diagnoses and community surveys over experimental designs.”

—Ann Stueve and Bruce Link, American Journal of Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780202307091
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/31/2003
  • Series: Social Institutions and Social Change Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 330
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine E. Ross is professor in both the department of sociology and Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

John Mirowsky is professor in both the department of sociology and Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Pt. I Introduction
1 Introduction 3
Understanding the Connections between Social and Personal Problems 3
Preview 7
Pt. II Researching the Causes of Distress
2 Measuring Psychological Well-Being and Distress 23
What Is Psychological Distress? 23
Diagnosis: Superimposed Distinctions 30
Conclusion: The Story of a Woman Diagnosed 48
Appendix of Symptom Indexes 50
3 Real-World Causes of Real-World Misery 54
Establishing Cause in the Human Sciences 54
Explaining Real Patterns 71
Pt. III Social Patterns of Distress
4 Basic Patterns 75
Community Mental Health Surveys 76
Socioeconomic Status 77
Marriage 84
Children at Home 89
Gender 95
Undesirable Life Events 112
Age 112
Discussion 129
5 New Patterns 130
Life Course Disruptions and Developments 131
Neighborhood Disadvantage and Disorder 145
Pt. IV Explaining the Patterns
6 Life Change: An Abandoned Explanation 159
Conceptual History of Life Change and Stress 160
Contradictory Evidence 163
Variants of the Life Change Index 166
Alternative Concepts and Future Research 169
7 Alienation 171
Control 171
Commitment 210
Support 213
Meaning 219
Normality 222
Alienation: the Prime Stressor 229
8 Authoritarianism and Inequity 230
Authoritarianism 230
Inequity 242
Pt. V Conclusion
9 Why Some People Are More Distressed Than Others 253
Control of One's Own Life 253
The Importance of Social Factors 257
Genetics and Biochemistry as Alternative Explanations 260
What Can Be Done? 273
"Take arms against a sea of troubles" 277
App Description of Data Sets and Measures 278
References 289
Index 313
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