Stress, Mental Health and Need Satisfaction among Indochinese in Colorado

Aylesworth, Laurence S. (Ph.D., 1980)

Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio

The phenomenon of cultural displacement is identified as a fruitful area for psychological investigation. Cross-cultural epidemiological research indicates that culturally displaced persons, and particularly refugees and immigrants, are at high risk for psychopathology and psychophysiological pathology. Existing explanations for the phenomenon include the notions of stressful life events, social isolation, culture change, culture shock, and self-selection or "drift."

A new model which is based on the concepts of Descriptive Psychology is introduced to provide an alternative conceptualization for the phenomenon of cultural displacement and explain the corresponding pathology. In this model basic human need frustration is directly associated with non-participation or deficient participation in the social forms of the host culture.

Basic Human Needs are generally satisfied through the normative participation in the social practices of a community. Cultural displacement leaves the displaced person without access to his old cultural practices and without the personal characteristics required for the normative participation in the host culture. The consequence for the individual is the experience of significant basic human need frustration and resultant negative psychological and psychophysiological effects.

Empirical tests of the Basic Human Need Frustration (BHNF) model involve three types of hypotheses. These hypotheses were tested with approximately ten percent of the adult Vietnamese, H'Mong, and Cambodian refugees in Colorado. The three types of hypotheses and findings are summarized as follows. (1) Basic Human Need Frustration will be associated with negative psychological and negative psychophysiological effects. These hypotheses received strong support for the Vietnamese and H'Mong but not for the Cambodians. (2) Certain needs will be closely associated with certain negative psychological effects. The primary test of these hypotheses gave mainly negative findings. Auxiliary analyses provided positive but weaker support only for the Cambodians. (3) Psychological effects of paranoia and guilt will be associated with needs in patterns of greater and lesser satisfaction. Results in this connection were negative for all groups.

In addition, the empirical association between basic human needs and psychological effects was found to be highly structured; 59 of 264 comparisons achieved significant Pearson correlations beyond p = .05. In conclusion, the BHNF approach appears to have some utility in providing direction to preventive and remediative mental health efforts with culturally displaced persons. [285 pp.]