African Family And Culture: The Unheard Voice Of African Women

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African Family and Culture: The Unheard Voice of African Women

The psychological literature on people of color has accumulated over the past 25 years as the field has recognized the importance of culture in the conceptualization of mental health. The American Psychological Association affirmed the importance of culture in its Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists, which suggest that future scholarship on people of color should continue to proliferate. The literature on women of color touches on issues ranging from behavioral norms and psychological disorders to the impact of stereotypes and discrimination. Several common themes emerge from this literature that cut across ethnic and racial boundaries, such as disparities in mental health problems, definitions of beauty, identity struggles, gender socialization, role overload, and combating sexism and racism. Because the majority of the psychological literature focuses on one of four ethnic or pan-ethnic groups, this chapter will summarize research involving women of color from four racial or ethnic groups: American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, and Latina Americans.

American Indian And Alaska Native Women

Limited information exists about American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women and the psychological issues they face. One major problem is access to this population. In 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there are approximately 4 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the United States, accounting for less than 2% of the U.S. population. Within these 4 million people, there are more than 550 federally recognized tribes, each with a distinct history, culture, and language. This makes it very hard to generalize findings from the few extant studies.

One of the biggest problems facing AI/AN women is that there are only approximately 101 AI/AN mental health providers available per 100,000 members of this ethnic group. This compares with 173 per 100,000 for Caucasians. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that there are no mental health outcome studies of American Indians and that the failure to conduct clinical research must be addressed.

Several areas of psychological research on AI/AN women align with the findings of the Indian Health Service, which reveal elevated rates of suicide, mortality, depression, and substance abuse in AI/AN women. The high mortality rate of AI/AN women has been one topic of research. Reasons for elevated mortality rates include violence, alcoholism, treatable and preventable diseases (such as diabetes and tuberculosis), and suicide. In addition to higher mortality rates, AI/AN women appear to have higher rates of alcohol use and disorders, anxiety disorders, and anxiety and depression comorbidity compared with other samples of non-AI/AN women in primary care settings.

Depression in AI/AN women is a second research area. According to statistics published by the Indian Health Service, depression affects approximately 75% of AI/AN women seeking services. There are many reasons for the high prevalence of depression in the AI/AN population, including spiritual illness and shame, subjective feelings of rejection and discrimination, inability to acquire upward mobility in American society, guilt stemming from collective and personal ...
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