• vulnerability;
  • risk;
  • concept clarification;
  • emic;
  • etic;
  • values;
  • endangerment;
  • personal integrity;
  • interpersonal relations;
  • nursing

New perspectives on vulnerability using emic and etic approaches

The concept of vulnerability has not been developed theoretically from a nursing perspective. It has been viewed epidemiologically as population-based relative risk with little consideration of its experiential qualities. The purpose of this paper is to analyse critically the use of the term vulnerability using elements of concept clarification and a critical literature review. A new perspective of vulnerability is offered based on differentiating between the concepts of risk and experience. Risk consists of assumptions from etic or external evaluation of relative danger while lived experience informs an emic or personal interpretation. Assumptions related to the etic view include normative social values, objective harm and endangerment, and social sanction for intervention. An emic view of vulnerability is based on experiential perception of challenge to personal integrity and the universal and mutual nature of the phenomenon. Questions about the evaluation of harm, potential for growth, subjectivity and objectivity, social sanction and capacity for action, can help clarify the range between these two dimensions.