ETHNIC FACTORS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS IN WOMEN (HISPANICS, SEX-ROLES, FEMALES)
AVILES, ALICE ALERS
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It is suggested that mainland Puerto Rican women, already burdened by the stresses of acculturation and minority status, are especially vulnerable to psychological disorders because of the additional stresses of cultural values that emphasize submissiveness, passivity, and deference to others. These values are associated with the stereotype of the traditional female role. The effects of integration with family were thought to attenuate the relationship between lack of assertiveness and psychological distress, although consideration was given to the impact of a close-knit family structure on reinforcing cultural values. The relationships between assertiveness, marital status, and ethnicity were investigated with data from interviews with 63 Puerto Rican, Black and Anglo mothers. Instruments included the Lazarus Assertiveness Questionnaire, the Maferr Inventory of Feminine Values, the Integration with Relatives Scale, and the Gurin Survey of Psychological Symptomatology. The results indicated that, for this sample, Puerto Rican women were no more symptomatic than Black or Anglo women, nor were they less assertive, nor did their cultural values affect them in any deleterious fashion. Instead, it was demonstrated that social status can seriously influence the behavior of these women. Both single Puerto Rican and single Anglo mothers were shown to be less assertive and to suffer greater psychological distress than the other women. The majority of women, across ethnic groups, reported a number of psychological symptoms that hampered them in their day-to-day functioning. Although minority women have been identified as being at risk for a variety of psychological disorders, much of this vulnerability was shown to be related to the stresses of poverty. Close ties with the extended family, which were shown to be more characteristic of Black and Puerto Rican women, appeared to attenuate some of the stresses of minority status. In psychotherapy with Blacks and Puerto Ricans, the extended family should be regarded as an important resource to be incorporated in treatment planning.