How Kids Understand Health and Illness: Some Reflections from and for the Theory of Social Representations



The purpose of the article is twofold: 1) to argue about utility and advantages of the social representational perspective applied to the field of health and illness in case of children, 2) to discuss the potential and fertility of cultural-historical psychology for the development of the theory of social representations (SRs). The studies concerning the children’s understanding of health and illness are analysed. The limitations of the perspective to study mental representations of health and illness are revealed. The relevance and thepotential of the theory of SRs on the problem of children’s understanding of health and illness are discussed. The article reviews the four main theoretical approaches to SRs analysis. It is highlighted that genesis of the SRs is a zone of proximal development (or better to say zona blizhaishego razvitia) of the theory of SRs. The final part of the article dwells on the main points of the cultural-historical psychology in order to reveal some insights for the development of the theory of SRs.

General Information

Keywords: health, illness, corporeality, children and adolescents, theory of SRs, theoretical approaches to SRs analysis, cultural-historical psychology, interiorisation, development

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Aim M., Dany L., Dvoryanchikov N.V., Bovina I.B. How Kids Understand Health and Illness: Some Reflections from and for the Theory of Social Representations. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2018. Vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 15–22. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2018140102.

A Part of Article

One of the main reasons for this research interest is that childhood and adolescence are the periods when habits and attitudes towards health and healthy life style, illness, risk and risky behaviour are formed. Therefore, educational programs need to take into account how children and adolescents see this reality.


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Information About the Authors

Marie-Anastasie Aim, PhD Student, University of Aix-Marseille, Laboratory of Social Psychology, Aix-en-Provence, France, e-mail:

Lionel Dany, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Social Psychology and Labor Psychology, University of Aix–Marseille, Laboratory of Social Psychology, Aix-en-Provence, France, e-mail:

Nikolay V. Dvoryanchikov, PhD in Psychology, Docent, Dean, Faculty of Legal and Forensic Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Inna B. Bovina, Doctor of Psychology, Research Director, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical and Legal Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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