The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Familial Caregivers and Elder Abuse Among Chinese Immigrant Families

Friday, January 18, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Tammy Yu, MSW, MSW Student, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
Rashmi Gupta, PhD, Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
Yeon-Shim Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University, san Francisco, CA
Kristina Lovato-Hermann, MSW, Doctoral Student, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Los Angeles, CA
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore how elder mistreatment among Chinese elders manifests itself and the cultural factors that lend themselves to continuation of this issue. Mistreated Chinese elder immigrants often don’t report the abuse or seek help, especially if the perpetrator is a family member or their adult children. Possible explanations for this are adherence to traditional cultural values, the elders do not define the mistreatment as abuse, they may be dependent on their child caregiver, may have language barriers, lack of resources or support network, or they may self-neglect due to low self esteem. Other possible risk factors include the caregiver’s stress and cultural and generation gap between the caregiver and the older adults. Care giving can be viewed using the social exchange theory, which views the social life as exchanges resources, goods, and social actors (Morgan & Kunkel, 2006). The purpose of the study is to examine factors that contribute to elder mistreatment and help seeking behaviors in Chinese immigrant families.

Method: This study utilizes a qualitative research design consisting of four focus groups with in-home care workers and nine in-depth interviews with service providers with several years of experience of working with Chinese elders. Participants were recruited using purposive, convenience technique with the focus to discuss elder mistreatment in the Chinese immigrant communities. One criterion for being selected for participation was that service providers were knowledgeable about elder mistreatment in the Chinese as they were front line workers in their communities. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University. Focus groups were conducted in Cantonese, while in-depth interviews were conducted in English. Researchers and focus group facilitators used a question guide to facilitate open-ended questions. All interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and translated as necessary.

Results: The results of this study show Chinese elders have a different perception of abuse, and do not report abuse because of cultural factors.  We find differences in acculturation to Western values among Chinese immigrants, language barriers and dependency among older adults which make them vulnerable to elder mistreatment. The findings of this study support previous research on Chinese mistreatment often by adult children, and the influence of Chinese cultural factors, such as stigma of ‘losing face” which may lead to under reporting of the problem.

Implications: The participants of this study emphasized the need to educate Chinese elders and family caregivers about appropriate care and the definition of abuse. Practitioners working with Chinese elders need to assess the knowledge of the elder’s perception of abuse and factors that contribute to the mistreatment. Service providers should assess for the acculturation level of the caregivers and elders, as this will provide the worker with the information about the differences in values and perceptions among generations which often leads to family conflicts. Future studies should further examine the relationship between elder mistreatment and expectations of care giving from both the elders and the caregivers.