Exploring Aspects of Filipino-American Families

By Cimmarusti, Rocco A. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, April 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Exploring Aspects of Filipino-American Families

Cimmarusti, Rocco A., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Filipinos are the fastest growing Asian population in the United States. Yet we Westerners know little about the Filipino-American family aspects of its organization, facets of its functioning, or salient cultural values. This paper explores these issues in the first-generation Filipino-American family and offers specific treatment recommendations. Case examples are provided.

As a whole, Asians are often seen as reluctant to attend therapy and receive dubious praise as the "model minority" (Crystal, 1989; Sue, 1981). The myth exists that Asians adapt well to our society, are overachievers, do well in school, and do not experience problems. Asian children are stereotyped as smart children who never cause their families any trouble. Generally, however, there is evidence which suggests that Asian groups experience problems in the same proportion as the mainstream population (Araneta, 1982; Sue, 1981).

According to 1980 census data, the Filipino-American population is the largest Asian population in Chicago and the largest Asian group in the United States ("Filipinos," 1990). A survey of 100 mostly first-generation Filipino-American adults was conducted by the Filipino American Council of Chicago, Committee on Social Services and Human Resources with the assistance of the author. The results indicated that 39% of the respondents had experienced some sort of problem assimilating into American culture, 32% had problems communicating with their children, 25% experienced a drug or alcohol problem with their children, 20% had a child drop out of school, and 33% experienced a clash between American and Filipino values which resulted in family conflict.

Yet first- and second-generation Filipino-Americans rarely use mental health and social services. A brief, informal survey of several Chicago-area social service agencies indicated that they served few or no Filipino-American clients. However, according to the survey mentioned above, a staggering 80% of the respondents indicated that they would seek help provided by the Filipino-American community or by clinicians sensitive to Filipino culture.

A culturally competent, family-oriented clinician rather than an individually oriented clinician would more likely be successful with Filipino-American clients because the family is of prime importance in the Filipino culture. Hence the purpose of this paper is to increase clinicians' cultural competence for working with first- and second-generation Filipino-Americans and their families. Clinicians should expect as much variation among Filipino families, however, as among any group of families and should therefore remain curious about the unique interpretation the family has made of the concepts discussed here.

This paper was undertaken as a result of my experiences while traveling in the Philippines, volunteer efforts with the Filipino American Council of Chicago, and direct clinical contact with several first-generation Filipino-American families. On a more personal level, I was married for over 17 years to a first-generation Filipina immigrant. Nonetheless, I am not a Filipino-American and hence the following observations are subject to all the possible misinterpretations of anyone who offers his/her personal constructions about another's culture.


One factor which contributes to the disparity between the need for therapy services among Filipino-Americans and their use of such services may be the stereotype among mainstream Americans that Filipinos are well-suited for and already acculturated into American life. Potential referral sources may not think that Filipino-Americans need professional help.

Perhaps this stereotype is partly a result of America's ignominious history with the people of the Philippine Islands. America's view of Filipinos has changed over the years to suit the best interests of the U. S. government. The stereotype that Filipinos are well-assimilated into American culture has colluded with aspects of the Filipino culture that, in my opinion, have been both misunderstood and misapplied and have lead to making Filipinos an invisible Asian minority.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Exploring Aspects of Filipino-American Families


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?