BACKGROUND The burdens experienced by relatives of mentally ill persons are substantial.
AIMS To study the relationship between family burden and sociocultural context.
METHOD A comparative study of Euro-Americans and Latinos ascertained whether dimensions of family response are (a) non-specific to diagnostic groups; and/or (b) variable across cultural settings.
RESULTS Regardless of diagnosis or ethnicity, patient misery was found most burdensome and distressing. However, considerable difference in shades of meaning and nuance across groups appears in relation to what is classed similarly as 'misery'. Only gender was significantly associated with social performance (males reported to have greater deficits). A complex cultural ecological effect was observed among the Latino-schizophrenia group.
CONCLUSIONS Findings suggest similarities and differences in levels of family burden in relation to socio-cultural factors across cultural and diagnostic groups. The specificity of results by objective and subjective measures, types of burden, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis, and living situation confirm the importance of context and heterogeneity in understanding family burden and distress.