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Race Soc Probl. 2014;6(1):56-68.

Fractured Identity: A Framework for Understanding Young Asian American Women's Self-harm and Suicidal Behaviors.

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  • 1Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA USA.
  • 2Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA USA.


Despite the high suicide rate among young Asian American women, the reasons for this phenomenon remain unclear. This qualitative study explored the family experiences of 16 young Asian American women who are children of immigrants and report a history of self-harm and/or suicidal behaviors. Our findings suggest that the participants experienced multiple types of "disempowering parenting styles" that are characterized as: abusive, burdening, culturally disjointed, disengaged, and gender-prescriptive parenting. Tied to these family dynamics is the double bind that participants suffer. Exposed to multiple types of negative parenting, the women felt paralyzed by opposing forces, caught between a deep desire to satisfy their parents' expectations as well as societal expectations and to simultaneously rebel against the image of "the perfect Asian woman." Torn by the double bind, these women developed a "fractured identity," which led to the use of "unsafe coping" strategies. Trapped in a "web of pain," the young women suffered alone and engaged in self-harm and suicidal behaviors.


Asian American women; Child abuse; Mental health; Parenting; Self-harm; Suicide

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