Asian and Pacific Islander American Men's Help-Seeking: Cultural Values and Beliefs, Gender Roles, and Racial Stereotypes

By Chang, Tai; Subramaniam, Prithwi Raj | International Journal of Men's Health, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Asian and Pacific Islander American Men's Help-Seeking: Cultural Values and Beliefs, Gender Roles, and Racial Stereotypes


Chang, Tai, Subramaniam, Prithwi Raj, International Journal of Men's Health


Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) individuals comprise one of the fastest growing populations in the United States; however, little is know about their health status, and even less is known about the health status and help-seeking patterns of these men. This article provides an overview of APIA men's help-seeking behavior, using an ecological-contextual framework to understand the impact of cultural values and beliefs, gender roles, and racial stereotypes on help-seeking. We consider the influence on their lives of Asian philosophical and religious thought; cultural values of harmony, interdependence, and saving face; alternative views of health based on holism, fatalism, and spiritism; and the impact of racism and the model minority stereotype. Generalizations about cultures and peoples in this group of men are balanced by an emphasis on within-group differences such as ethnic background and acculturation. Implications for culturally responsive services and service providers are discussed.

Keywords: Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, help-seeking, health, cultural values, men

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Although Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) individuals comprise one of the fastest growing populations in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001b), there remains a dearth of information about their health status (Abe-Kim, Takeuchi, & Hwang, 2002; Amaro, Jenkins, Kunitz, Levy, Mixon, & Yu, 1995; Zhang & Snowden, 1999), and even less is known about the health status and help-seeking patterns of APIA men. Researchers (Gong, Gage, & Tacata, 2003; Leong & Lau, 2001; Liao, Rounds, & Klein, 2005; Yu, Liu, & Williams, 1993) have emphasized the need to focus on the role of culture in shaping the their health. In this article, we review the literature on help-seeking by APIA men, and examine the roles of culture values and beliefs, gender roles, and racial stereotypes in shaping their patterns of help-seeking.

Asian Pacific Islander American is an umbrella term used to represent a number of unique ethnic groups, each with different patterns of help-seeking, cultural values and traditions, and attitudes and beliefs about health and illness. According to the 2000 census, there were over 12.8 million APIA individuals, accounting for 4.5 percent of the U.S. population (Barnes & Bennett, 2002; Grieco, 2001). Of these, 11.9 million were Asian, a racial designation made up of more than 20 ethnic groups, with Chinese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Japanese comprising over 88 percent of those who reported only one Asian ethnic group. Other Asian ethnic groups include Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians, Pakistanis, Taiwanese, Thais, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Burmese, Malaysians, Nepalese, Okinawans, Singaporeans, Bhutanese, Indo Chinese, Maldivians, and Iwo Jimans. There were 1.7 million multiracial Asian Americans, and 224,000 multiethnic Asian Americans (Barnes & Bennett, 2002). Pacific Islander Americans numbered 874,000, almost half of whom were Native Hawaiian, the remaining being multiracial. Other Pacific Islander ethnic groups include Samoans, Guamanians or Chamorros, Tongans, Fijians, and over 15 other Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian ethnic groups (Grieco, 2001).

The proportion of APIA individuals who were foreign-born was the highest of any racial group at (61.4 percent or 6.7 million people) (Schmidley, 2001). The average income per household for APIA individuals was more than that for White non-Hispanics ($55,521 vs. $45,904); however, there were more family members per household for APIA individuals than for White non-Hispanics (3.10 vs. 2.45), resulting in lower income per household member in the group than for White non-Hispanics ($22,688 vs. $24,951) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001a). Despite these income figures, APIA men and women were over-represented among those living in poverty (10.

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