The effects of language and culture on the assessment of psychopathology



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While assessment of the mental health of Mexican Americans has been criticized as being based on inadequate and inappropriate concepts, or measures, no study has systematically investigated the relationships between the language and cultural backgrounds of mental health professionals and the assessment of psychopathology. This dissertation is the first work to examine those relationships . Ten bilingual Mexican American schizophrenic inpatients were interviewed in both English and Spanish. Various instruments were used to measure language fluency, mood, and degree of acculturation. Three groups of raters evaluated the interviews according to a predetermined rating scale. The raters were administered the same measures as the patients, as well as an identification scale. One group of raters was composed of bilingual Mexican Americans, another of bilingual Anglo Americans, and a third of monolingual Anglo Americans. The results indicated that the patients expressed more discomfort when speaking Spanish than English. There were, however, no significant differences between the rating groups's assessments of psychopathology in both English and Spanish. The data also suggested that experience with schizophrenic patients was more of a factor than the raters's language and cultural backgrounds.