Abstract: South Asian Youth and Their Perception of Gender Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

405P South Asian Youth and Their Perception of Gender Violence

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Vithya Murugan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO
Neely Mahapatra, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Background: Despite achieving material success and being called the “model minority,” high rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) plague South Asian communities in the U.S., with studies indicating that 30 to 60 percent of South Asian women experience IPV ( Finfgeld-Connett, & Johnson, 2013; Mahapatra, 2012). The IPV literature on South Asians is primarily survivor-focused and examines the prevalence, risk factors, and consequences of IPV (Tonsing & Barn, 2017). Notably missing from the South Asian IPV literature are community perspectives on IPV (Yoshihama et al., 2012), specifically those of South Asian youth in the U.S. According to Heise and Kostadam (2015), engaging with youth may serve as a promising primary prevention strategy by addressing harmful sociocultural norms (e.g., norms justifying men’s authority over women, including wife abuse) that are significantly associated with IPV. The purposes of this exploratory study were to ascertain the perceptions of South Asian youth regarding IPV in the South Asian community and to understand the role of the community, specifically the youth and men, in preventing IPV.

Methods: Using convenience sampling method, participants (N=30; 13 females & 17 males) were recruited to participate in four focus groups that were conducted on 2 college campuses (1 rural and 1 metropolitan) with an average of 7 -8 participants in each focus group. The sessions were audio-taped and later transcribed. Qualitative coding involved the researcher assigning “a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based data” (Saldaña, 2013, p. 3). Coding included in Vivo, descriptive, process and emotional coding resulting in categories and then shared themes.

Results: All participants (ages 19-32) attended university (87% in graduate school and the rest were undergraduates). Twenty-six percent of the participants were either born in the U.S or raised in the U.S. The rest were in the U.S for higher education. Four distinct themes (a) gender role ambiguity (i.e. participants explained various influences of their background (whether brought up in South Asia or in the U.S) in defining social identity, gender roles and societal expectations on their perception of IPV), (b) “don’t expect a race horse out of a donkey,” (i.e. most males who immigrated for higher education wavered between their strong patriarchal upbringing and the pressure of adopting more egalitarian belief systems by being in the U.S.) (c) acculturation and interpersonal violence (-this was related to changing attitudes and behaviors in relation to interpersonal violence depending on their length of stay in the U.S (whether recent immigrants, first generation or second generation South Asian Americans), and (d) “charity begins at home” (participants [both males & females] discussed to lead by example, by adopting healthier and democratic principles) emerged from the participants' discussion.

Implications: Important implications for social work research and practice include how gender, culture, socialization process, immigration and other sociocultural factors influence South Asian youths’ perception of IPV. Youth can play important roles by openly engaging in dialogues about gender roles and expectations, effects of violence on women and children, and related health and mental health issues.