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October 2021

Med Anthropol Q. 1998 Jun; 12(2): 241-9.

Caida de mollera among children of Mexican migrant workers: implications for the study of folk illnesses.

Baer RD, Bustillo M.

Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, USA.

Information about the folk illness caida de mollera was collected from Mexican and Mexican American migrant mothers who had treated their children for the illness, and from physicians in a clinic that served this population. These physicians believed that the vast majority of the sets of symptoms were worthy of medical attention and could be life threatening if not treated. This research report concurs with other studies that suggest that although Mexican folk illnesses are conceptualized to have folk-social and psychological causes, they are also seen to have biological causes and physiological symptoms that can be treated by biomedical methods. This report outlines a model for understanding aspects of folk illnesses that includes folk vs. biomedical ideas about disease, causes vs. symptoms, and psychological vs. physiological aspects of sickness. It also suggests that the kinds of questions anthropologists ask about these illnesses may need to be modified--shifting away from questions about treatments of causes and refocusing on those about the treatment of physiological symptoms--if we are to more fully understand home approaches to the management of these illnesses.

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