Asian Americans are less likely to seek out social support than their European American counterparts, according to a new study conducted by researchers from UC Santa Barbara.
According to assistant professor of psychology and study co-author Heejung S. Kim, Asian Americans do not seek support because of concerns that it affects relationships negatively. Disclosing occurrences like stressful events can make others worry, or even cause the support-seeker appear weak. In contrast, the study found that European Americans view requests for support as a proactive and beneficial method to solve problems.
“”Asian Americans seem to be particularly aware and concerned about these implications and therefore are more hesitant to seek social support,”” Kim said in an e-mail.
The research found that Asian Americans still seek implicit help, spending time with family or friends without discussing problems, while still receiving some indirect support from the interactions. European Americans, on the other hand, explicitly deal with emotional issues, and are more likely to talk them over. The emphasis on collectivism in Asian cultures, Kim said, influences Asian Americans to value harmony more than individuals in Western cultures.
Kim stressed that the study’s findings are not to be overgeneralized as a complete and total picture of all Asian Americans’ relationships.
“”Our goal is to identify behaviors that tend to vary systematically across cultures, and bring forward cultural biases that implicitly exist,”” Kim said.
Many UCSD Asian-American students said they saw the findings as representative of their experiences.
“”I agree most with the idea of implicit support, that we use our social networks differently just by spending time with our families,”” Revelle College junior Malou Amparo said. “”We have different ways of coping and seeking help; maybe seeing a counselor or something isn’t very appealing for some reason. It wouldn’t be my first choice.””
Many students hesitate when turning to family for emotional support, some students said, and older generations expect a level of personal control.
“”I almost feel as if it would be a sign of weakness if I were to not be self-dependent and be able to deal with things myself,”” Revelle College junior Kimberly Yu said. “”I don’t think this was explicitly said to me ever in my life, but I’ve always felt that way, especially about my academics and my career. I almost don’t want to fall into the stereotype, but those are the values that I’ve gained from my family.””
Sixth College junior Jennifer Wong said that if she were experiencing problems, she would not seek out help from a mental health professional.
“”While some of my friends might go to a therapist, my first instinct would not be to go talk to someone about it,”” Wong said.
According to Kim, the study suggests that groups using the culturally appropriate support system had lower stress levels than when they used a support system that didn’t match their cultural background. While many students express reservations about talking to older generations, students have an easier time connecting to peers with similar backgrounds.
According to Amparo, she finds support in Kamalayan Kollective, a Filipino organization.
“”A lot of the support I feel that I need relates to my Filipino and Asian identity,”” Amparo said.
UCSD Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance President Brian Kang also said that he finds support among his peers.
“”I know that when I was first starting college, I wouldn’t ask for help a lot because I didn’t really feel comfortable talking to anyone, but in my experiences with APSA, it really brought that out of me,”” Kang said. “”I do try and stress that APSA is family to us. It’s like a second home for a lot of the members.””