• Family;
  • Race;
  • Perceptions of illness;
  • Osteoarthritis



Family members are central to arthritis care, but little is known about public perceptions of osteoarthritis (OA) and how cultural diversity affects these perceptions. We examined the effects of participant race and diagnostic label of OA on family members' perceptions and willingness to help a parent with OA.


A total of 105 young adult African American and 308 young adult white participants were randomly assigned to read 1 of 2 vignettes (OA label versus no label) describing an older mother with marked pain and disability. Effects for race and diagnostic label were examined.


Participants who were told that the mother had OA were more likely to believe the mother's problems were due to illness, but were less likely to believe that better health care would improve her condition than participants not told a diagnosis. African Americans attributed less blame to the mother, showed less anger, more sympathy, and were more willing to help compared with whites.


The finding that the OA label leads to pessimism concerning the benefits of health care for a parent suggests a need for public education on the effectiveness of arthritis care. Race differences in perceptions of the parent and willingness to provide care are consistent with previous literature on race and family caregiving, and indicate that cultural values regarding family caregiving may be important in arthritis care. Family members could serve as important allies for elderly individuals with OA, and public health efforts should not just target older adults but should also provide information on arthritis care for families.