Theorizing Social Context: Rethinking Behavioral Theory
Major behavioral theories focus on proximal influences on behavior that are considered to be predominantly cognitive characteristics of the individual largely uninfluenced by social context. Social ecological models integrate multiple levels of influence on health behavior and are noted for emphasizing the interdependence of environmental settings and life domains. This theory-based article explains how social context is conceptualized in the social sciences and how the social science conceptualization differs from and can broaden the analytic approach to health behavior. The authors use qualitative data from the Behavioral Constructs and Culture in Cancer Screening study to illustrate our conceptualization of social context. We conclude that the incorporation into health behavior theory of a multidimensional socioculturally oriented, theoretical approach to social context is critical to understand and redress health disparities in multicultural societies like the United States.
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