Porque me toco a mi? Mexican American diabetes patients' causal stories and their relationship to treatment behaviors

Linda M. Hunt, Miguel A. Valenzuela, Jacqueline A. Pugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


This paper reports findings from an ethnographic study of self-care behaviors and illness concepts among Mexican-American non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) patients. Open-ended interviews were conducted with 49 NIDDM patients from two public hospital outpatient clinics in South Texas. They are self-identified Mexican-Americans who have had NIDDM for at least 1 yr, and have no major impairment due to NIDDM. Interviews focused on their concepts and experiences in managing their illness and their self-care behaviors. Clinical assessment of their glucose control was also extracted from their medical records. The texts of patient interviews were content analyzed through building and refining thematic matrixes focusing on their causal explanations and treatment behaviors. We found patients' causal explanations of their illness often are driven by an effort to connect the illness in a direct and specific way to their personal history and their past experience with treatments. While most cite biomedically accepted causes such as heredity and diet, they elaborate these concepts into personally relevant constructs by citing Provoking Factors, such as behaviors or events. Their causal models are thus both specific to their personal history and consistent with their experiences with treatment success or failure. Based on these findings, we raise a critique of the Locus of Control Model of treatment behavior prevalent in the diabetes education literature. Our analysis suggests that a sense that one's own behavior is important to the disease onset may reflect patients' evaluation of their experience with treatment outcomes, rather than determining their level of activity in treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-969
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 1998


  • Behavioral factors
  • Causal model
  • Diabetes
  • Locus of Control
  • Mexican Americans
  • Patient perspective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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