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Multiculturalism and Social Work | San Francisco State University

Culture and mental health: nonverbal communication

Author: Singh, N.N; McKay, J.D; Singh, A.N.
Author Background:
Date 12/1998
Type Journal
Journal Title: Journal-of-Child-and-Family-Studies
Volume/Pages 7(4): 403-409
Subject Matter Culture-; Nonverbal-communication; Mental-health
Abstract All behavior occurs in a cultural context. Context, which can be defined in a number of ways, has been referred to as the web of experience that includes thoughts, acts, and the past (Kuhns & Martorana, 1982); the general framework which influences a person's current decision making about specific issues (Welshimer & Earp, 1989); and the immediately relevant aspects of a situation in which a person functions (Miles & Huberman, 1984). Culture is a dynamic conceptual abstraction that has been socially constructed by groups of people, and is continually modified and transmitted across generations. Broadly defined, culture is the shared values, traditions, arts, history, folklore, and institutions of a group of people that are unified by race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religious beliefs, spirituality, socioeconomic status, social class, sexual orientation, politics, gender, age, disability, or any other cohesive group variable (Singh, 1995). Clearly, this definition recognizes that all of us simultaneously belong to more than one cultural group and that each person is involved in complex dynamic relationships with others from overlapping cultural traditions. In this paper, the authors provide selected examples of nonverbal communication that may lead to cultural misunderstanding, not forgetting that verbal communications are subject to similar misinterpretations.