Cambodian and Laotian Americans' cultural values and attitudes toward seeking professional psychological services

Manivone Thikeo, University of Rhode Island


Several studies have reported that Asian Americans, including Cambodian and Laotian Americans, tend to under utilize mental health services, both inpatient and outpatient although they display high levels of psychological problems related to significant psychological trauma experienced in their native land or while living in refugee camps. Underutilization may not be related to the lack of need but it may relate to cultural factors such as shame and stigma as well as acculturation and lack of health insurance. Although some Asian American research about help seeking exists, no previous research has specifically addressed this question with a Cambodian and Laotian population. This study was designed to investigate demographic and acculturation variables that might help understand why. This study used data from 108 Cambodians and Laotians adults (18+) living in Rhode Island. Participants completed (1) a demographic questionnaire sheet; (2) the Sin-Lew Asian Self Identity Acculturation Scale (AS-ASIA); (3) the Attitude Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale (ATSPPHS). Results show that only one demographic variable, gender, demonstrated a robust relationship with help seeking, with females being significantly more likely than males to recognize the need for help, have less stigma about seeking help, be more open to discussing problems and more confident that professional services would be of assistance. In contrast, neither age, nor education having health insurance was significantly related to help seeking. Level of acculturation was strongly related to help seeking, contributing, in hierarchical regression analyses, unique variance over and above the set of demographic variables. Further, acculturation was related to two specific dimensions of help seeking (e.g., openness to discussing problems and confidence in professional help). A discussion of tailoring change efforts to these particular dimensions as well as females is offered as useful in engaging Laotian and Cambodian populations. Further, females are not only likely to seek help but they are also able to influent others, especially males, to seek help through their traditional role as a "wives and mother." Limitations of this research are discussed and suggestions made for future research efforts. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Mental Health|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Manivone Thikeo, "Cambodian and Laotian Americans' cultural values and attitudes toward seeking professional psychological services" (2010). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3430342.