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Marital violence among Asian-American couples

By Claudia Morain on August 14, 2007 in Society, Arts & Culture

UC Davis research is shining new light on a neglected issue: marital violence in Asian Americans.

In a new analysis, the researchers found that, as expected, violence is more common among Asian-American couples who report marital distress.

But UC Davis psychology professor Nolan Zane and graduate student Manveen Dhindsa found that three other factors also stood out as significant risks for marital violence. Independent of marital distress, violence was more likely to occur if a family lacked closeness or if a spouse suffered from an anxiety disorder or stress related to acculturation into American society.

Dhindsa and Zane, who is also a professor of Asian American Studies, will present their findings on Thursday, Aug. 16, at the annual meeting of the Asian American Psychological Association in San Francisco.

The findings stem from an analysis of the largest nationally representative survey to explore mental health problems in Asian Americans.

"Until recently, the topic of marital violence has not received much attention among researchers who study Asian American socio-psychological issues," Dhindsa said. "However, marital violence does indeed occur among Asian Americans."

Zane and Dhindsa combed through data from the National Latino and Asian American Study, a National Institute of Mental Health-funded survey of 2,554 Latinos and 2,095 Asian Americans conducted between May 2002 and November 2003. The study, the largest national survey of mental health disorders and use of psychiatric services in these ethnic groups, was led by David Takeuchi, associate dean for research at the University of Washington School of Social Work in Seattle.

Marital violence included any angry physical contact, from shoving and slapping through more serious abuse.

"These results are quite important as they highlight that factors beyond marital distress can strongly increase chances for abuse," Zane said. "Such information can be used to enhance therapy for batterers, as clinicians can go beyond remedying marital distress and focus on other psychological problems found to significantly impact marital abuse."

Zane will also discuss the following research at the Asian American Psychological Association and American Psychological Association meetings:

  • Conceptions of 'Face' among Chinese: Clinical and Community Interventions," at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Asian American Psychological Association meeting, Alliant International University, One Beach Street, San Francisco
  • "Beyond Ethnic Match: Effects of Client-Therapist Cognitive Match on Outcomes," in a symposium titled "Ethnic Matching in Psychotherapy-Research Foundations and Future Directions" at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, in Moscone Center room 2011 at the American Psychological Association meeting.
  • Therapist Ethnicity and Treatment Orientation Differences in Cultural Competencies," in the "Improving Practice-Focus on Ethnic Psychology" poster session at 11 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 20, in Moscone Halls ABC at the American Psychological Association meeting.

Media contact(s)

Nolan Zane, Psychology, (530) 752-5419,