The Sociology and Anthropology of Mental Illness: A Reference Guide

The Sociology and Anthropology of Mental Illness: A Reference Guide

The Sociology and Anthropology of Mental Illness: A Reference Guide

The Sociology and Anthropology of Mental Illness: A Reference Guide

Excerpt

The increasing interest of sociologists, anthropologists, and the health professions in community mental health, medical sociology, and social psychiatry is reflected in the immense growth in recent years of scientific publications pertaining to these subjects. "In the face of this literature explosion," states a program director of the National Science Foundation, "reference works . . . assume a new importance but bring with them a new danger." They are valuable means of quickly acquainting researchers and practitioners with a variety of studies which would require an excessive number of hours to locate if one had to rely solely upon the standard, general bibliographic sources. But the researcher must guard against falsely assuming that, because the contents of a reference work are abundant, it must necessarily contain every study which is important to him. This danger, which O'Dette calls the "paradox of plenty," can, of course, be minimized if readers observe, rather than ignore, the stated limitations of each reference work.

An inspection of the contents of several reference works published just a few years apart suggests that the literature explosion in medical sociology and social psychiatry began about 1950 and has continued since then at an accelerated pace. The work of Freeman and Reeder in 1957, which was based on a survey of twenty journals and the programs of regional and national meetings, lists 107 publications, mainly articles, on medical sociology. The rapid growth of literature on this topic may be roughly measured by the size of the bibliography--approximately 1,700 items--which Simmons was able to compile by 1963. A comparable development has occurred in the field of social psychiatry. Clausen, by examining various sources, was able to locate 98 studies, published before 1956, which were concerned with social and cultural aspects of mental illness, the role of social sciences in mental health programs, or interdisciplinary collaboration in mental health. All except twenty- four of the 98 studies were published between 1950 and 1955. Just six years after Clausen's study, a team consisting of a psychiatrist and several psychologists compiled a reference work that contains 1,158 items on community mental health and social psychiatry which were published between 1953 and 1960. If knowledge in the field of social psychiatry continues to grow swiftly --and the current investment of persons and financial resources in this field indicates that it will--then the periodic issuance of reference guides to the literature will enhance the opportunity of researchers to keep abreast of develop-

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