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Why Chinese women do not seek help: a cultural perspective on the psychology of women

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It is not surprising that many of the subjects of previous studies of help-seeking by Chinese parents and families have been women. After all, in almost all cultures women comprise the majority of those seeking help. Nonetheless a women's perspective on help-seeking is underrepresented in the literature. This paper, a follow-up to an earlier study, constitutes an analysis of two group interviews with 20 women living in a Hong Kong new town, all of whom had experienced a stressful life event either directly or vicariously through a family member in the previous twelve months. The study placed particular emphasis on how they viewed their problems and solutions, their help-seeking strategies and their views on such existing services as hotlines and centre-based family services. This study then forms the basis of a more wide-ranging discussion which, while it does not in all respects emerge from it, reflects possible extrapolations. The data, that is to say, are not analysed quantitatively, but rather as a consciousness-raising exercise which also serves as a possible basis for more substantial research in the future. It was found that subjects' approach to these matters was characterized by the tolerance of an unequal and overburdened gender role, self-blame over children's and marital problems and the lack of adequate support from within or outside the family. As a result these women were in double jeopardy in respect of family troubles: not only were their problem definitions closely connected with the real or imagined cultural stigma of inadequate womanhood or motherhood, but they also generally declined to seek help from either formal or informal sources. These findings support the thesis that Chinese women are socialized and subjugated into a gendered role. Their perception of available existing services offers valuable clues as to why they ceased or were discouraged from seeking help. The implications are discussed with reference to the need for gender-sensitive practices and the need to work on a deeper level of value issues.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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