The Roles of Mothers and Fathers in Health Care: Social Representations and Healing Practices in Paraíso del Grijalva, Chiapas, Mexico


  • María Eugenia Balderas Correa El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Campeche, Mexico
  • Laura Huicochea Gómez. El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Campeche,


The fact that fathers play a minimal—or even non-existent—role in the processes of health and disease care has been observed in multiple studies (Browner, 1989; Dean, 1986; Litman, 1979, in Osorio 2001). Mothers typically are the first people to diagnose and triage primary health problems in the family, particularly for the youngest children. (Osorio, 2001). Across social sectors, the father/husband is either absent or has limited participation in health care of the family; often due to the division of labor within the family (Menéndez, 1993:139). However, there has been no research that examines the degree to which these social roles are inflexible; or if nuances exist based on the diverse contexts in which health and illness occur. This study was conducted in Paraíso del Grijalva, a community located in the Venustiano Carranza municipality, in the State of Chiapas, Mexico. According to official statistics, Venustiano Carranza has a total population of 49,675. 10,355 inhabitants speak an indigenous language, most commonly Tzotzil (n = 6558 or 63.3%) (INEGI II, Conteo 2005). We conducted interviews with seventy-five mothers and fathers about the causes of health and disease, symptoms, health care seeking behavior, and the health care they received. In several cases we recorded the family’s social representations, perceptions and healing practices. Both qualitative and quantitative information was obtained. This data was supplemented by drawings done by six children aged between 3 and 12 years, whose parents had been interviewed in depth. We chose younger children of both sexes because of their age, the time they spent with their parents, and their daily activities which nurtured the formation of close social bonds. The investigators’ familiarity with the young children in the study fostered trust and promoted natural responses from them.

Author Biography

María Eugenia Balderas Correa, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Campeche, Mexico

BA Physical Anthropology MA Social Medicine PhD Sociocultural Anthropology Full time professor. Research area: Health and society, Graduate Program in Physical Anthropology, National School of Anthropology and History. Member of the Promoting Group of ALAMES in Mexico.




Original Research