Incorporating psychosocial health into biocultural models: Preliminary findings from Turkana women of Kenya

Ivy L Pike, Sharon R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper investigates the potential benefits and limitations of including psychosocial stress data in a biocultural framework of human adaptability. Building on arguments within human biology on the importance of political economic perspectives for examining patterns of biological variation, this paper suggests that psychosocial perspectives may further refine our understanding of the mechanisms through which social distress yields differences in health and well-being. To assess a model that integrates psychosocial experiences, we conducted a preliminary study among nomadic pastoralist women from northern Kenya. We interviewed 45 women about current and past stressful experiences, and collected anthropometric data and salivary cortisol measures. Focus group and key informant interviews were conducted to refine our understanding of how the Turkana discuss and experience distress. The results suggest that the most sensitive indicators of Turkana women's psychosocial experiences were the culturally defined idioms of distress, which showed high concordance with measures of first-day salivary cortisol. Other differences in stress reactivity were associated with the frequent movement of encampments, major herd losses, and direct experiences of livestock raiding. Despite the preliminary nature of these data, we believe that the results offer important lessons and insights into the longer-term process of incorporating psychosocial models into human adaptability studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-740
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Volume18
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2006

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Kenya
distress
cortisol
Hydrocortisone
Health
health
experience
focus groups
Livestock
Focus Groups
livestock
interviews
herds
Economics
Interviews
Biological Sciences
economics
biology
well-being
woman

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology

Cite this

Incorporating psychosocial health into biocultural models : Preliminary findings from Turkana women of Kenya. / Pike, Ivy L; Williams, Sharon R.

In: American Journal of Human Biology, Vol. 18, No. 6, 11.2006, p. 729-740.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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