Asian and Latino Americans, two fastest growing populations in the US, face a serious problem of intimate partner violence (IPV), which has negative consequences on victims' mental health, as well as physical health. Literature suggests that IPV victims actively seek help from various resources (Cho & Wilke, 2005). However, Asian victims are least likely to report IPV incidents (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000), and Latino victims are less likely to seek help than non-Latinos (Ingram, 2007). Asians and Latinos are also less likely to use mental health services than the general population (Abe-Kim et al., 2007; AlegrĘ¬a et al., 2007). However, information regarding use of mental health services by abused Asian and Latino Americans is scarce. Furthermore, Asians and Latinos have been severely underrepresented by national data collection. This study attempted to fill this gap by utilizing nationally representative data to examine the nature of, and differences in, use of mental health services among abused Asian and Latino Americans.
The study data were taken from the National Latino and Asian American Study, which collected psychiatric data from Asian and Latino Americans aged 18 years or older in 2002 to 2003. A total of 1,199 Asians and 1,675 Latinos, who were identified as heterosexual, were included in the study sample. Study variables included IPV experience, gender, race, marital status, financial security, employment, English proficiency, mental health status, severity of IPV, and use of mental health services. Chi-square tests were conducted to examine differences between Asian and Latino Americans. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine factors affecting use of mental health services.
Asians in the sample, as compared to Latinos, were financially more secure (78% vs. 58%), experienced more minor IPV (7.5% vs. 4.8%) but less severe IPV (1.3% vs. 2%), thought to have less mental health problems (3.3% vs. 8.5%), and used less mental health services (14% vs. 23%). Abused Asians were more likely to use mental health services than Latinos, controlling for other variables (exp(b) = 2.73, p=.004). Women were more likely than men (exp(b) = 1.419, p=.001), and victims of severe IPV were more likely than minor IPV victims (exp(b) = 2.483, p=.004), to use mental health services. English proficiency was positively associated with service use (exp(b) = 1.446, p<.001).
Conclusions and implications.
There were differences in the nature of IPV between Asian and Latino Americans. Also, Asian Americans used less mental health services in general, but abused Asians, particularly women, were much more active in seeking help than Latinos.
Implications of the study for social work policy and practice include developing multi-culturally competent interventions in health care and social services. Differences between Asian and Latino Americans in the nature of IPV and their help-seeking behaviors should be recognized. It is important to develop service programs and protocols to deal with minority groups with limited English proficiency.
Future research needs to examine moderating and mediating factors affecting service use among IPV victims and identify barriers to help seeking for minority victims of IPV.