What is the etiology?

Since ancient times, human beings have always wondered about the reality and the circumstances surrounding their passage through the world. Where do we come from and what surrounds us? Where we are going? Why do we exist? How are the creatures, conditions and phenomena we observe explained? And one of the questions we have perhaps asked ourselves the most when observing a phenomenon, an action or a situation: what is the cause?

It is possible that when we hear a doctor, psychologist, or other professional use the word etiology at some point to resolve any of the above questions, a word that may be rare or unknown to most people. What is the etiology? In this article, we will briefly analyze this concept.

    The etiology of the concept

    Etiology is the branch of science responsible for the study and analysis of the cause or genesis of things, Phenomena or situations.

    It is important to take into account and emphasize that this is a scientific study, analyzing and exploring the variables that can generate the analyzed phenomena. For this, an experimental methodology is used and the relationships between the different variables are analyzed.

    Thus, the concept of etiology would not include empirically and experimentally uncontrolled beliefs, although they also try to make sense and attribute origin to different aspects of reality. However, although it is not a word widely used by the general population, it is sometimes common to work at the grassroots level to talk about the cause attributed to a phenomenon even if this connection is not proven.

    Analyze a phenomenon by parts

    It should be noted that in any natural process there are always many factors involved that influence in a more direct or indirect way what is studied. Therefore, through the etiology, we try to clarify what are the main processes or phenomena that explain something, taking for granted that they are unlikely to be the only ones, and after them surely there are many. others.

    So what we are trying to do is break down a phenomenon into parts and focus on its root, understanding that the cause it is interested in must provide a combination of completeness and simplicity to explain what is happening.

    Not just the direct cause

    In addition to the causes themselves, it also makes it possible to establish factors and variables which, without being directly the cause, participate in the genesis of what has been studied or which makes it difficult.

    Predisposing or protective factors that participate in or make the onset of a disease less likely, for example, are studied and analyzed. Triggers and enhancers are also worked on.

    In conclusion, the variables which interact to provoke a situation are studied, knowing that in general there is no single cause.

    Etiology in science

    Etiology is a science which in turn is part of many other disciplines, as the latter also explores the reason or cause of phenomena in a given area of ​​knowledge. Then we will see how it is applied since the etiology is dedicated to different areas.

    1. Medicine

    In the field of medicine, the term etiology is used to refer to the cause of diseases and disorders experienced by users or patients.

    The origin of a disease is sought in order to understand its mechanism of action and functioning and on the basis of this knowledge to seek and generate treatments allowing it to be cured or to alleviate its symptoms.

    The causes in question are usually biological and in many cases can be quite clear, although the same disease can have different causes in different cases.

    2. Psychology

    In the field of psychology, etiology also researches the causes for which an individual has different cognitions or beliefs, whether or not they adopt a specific behavior or the factors that cause a mental disorder.

    In this field, the study of the causes is relatively more complex than in the previous case, because mental phenomena are not directly observable. It is necessary to extrapolate the information from the relationships established between different variables.

    3. Sociology

    In sociology, etiology is responsible for researching, studying and analyzing the factors that explain the origin of a given social phenomenon.

    Aspects such as leadership, group formation and phenomena such as the polarization of groups, the existence of urban tribes, beliefs and customs are examples of themes whose origin is sought in sociology (and also from social psychology).

    4. Biology

    As in medicine, biology also analyzes the cause or etiology of the various biological processes that take place both in our species and in others.

    It analyzes the origin of processes and phenomena such as reproduction, feeding, migration or the characteristics of living beings, for example. Depending on whether the focus is on the micro or the macro, the etiology sought will vary.

    5. Right

    In law, the word etiology is generally not as widely used as in the health sciences, but in this area it also finds its application.

    Thus, we are looking for the causes that led to the commission of a crime, or certain rules and laws, and this is the element that explains the most what happened.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Etiology. Oxford English Dictionary (2002). Oxford University Press.
    • Longmore, M., Wilkinson, I., Baldwin, A. and Wallin, E. (2014). Oxford Manual of Clinical Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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