DSM III as a systemic culture pattern: Studying intracultural variation among psychiatrists

Horacio Fabrega, Chul W. Ahn, James Boster, Juan E. Mezzich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


DSM III is viewed as embodying a pool of information pertaining to a systemic culture pattern of psychiatry and attempts are made to describe how psychiatrists understand and apply it using ideas from cognitive anthropology. Each of seven psychiatrists evaluated a group of patients in an intake setting. Seven broad categories of Axis I diagnoses were formed and the frequencies with which psychiatrists used these categories were computed. In addition, twelve arithmetical measures pertaining to the five axes of DSM III and a current functioning axis and the decision regarding disposition were also computed. Using these dependent variables, the study analyzes the similarities and differences among psychiatrists in the way they formulate intake evaluations. Psychiatrists' selection of Axis I diagnoses were highly intercorrelated but they differed greatly among themselves in the way they coded many of the axes of DSM III. Group correlations among diagnostic measures indicated a patterning among diagnostic measures and the nature of this patterning is discussed. Each psychiatrists' set of correlations among the twelve diagnostic measures was itself correlated with that of others and this showed a very high level of interpsychiatrist agreement. Deductions drawn from the cultural consensus model suggest that psychiatrists share an underlying 'grammar' that references the pool of information pertaining to DSM III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-154
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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