Causal reasoning and the treatment of diarrhoeal disease by mothers in Kenya

Vimla L. Patel, Thomas O. Eisemon, JoséF F. Arocha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A study of reasoning about the cause and treatment of childhood diarrhoea by Maasai schooled and unschooled mothers was carried out in Kenya, using a method of analysis developed within cognitive psychology. A dramatic difference in the conceptual structures of mother's reasoning about both the cause and treatment of diarrhoea was found between the unschooled and schooled group. The unschooled mother's explanation of diarrhoea was in terms of illness, resulting from social and moral factors. The knowledge structures generated showed global coherence. The schooled mothers explained diarrhoea with a series of quasi-biomedical facts about the disease with little or no connections between facts. The role of understanding the underlying disease processes for learning in health education is discussed in the context of Kenyan culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1277-1286
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Kenya
  • causal reasoning
  • childhood diarrhoea
  • cognitive analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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