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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2012 Jan;47(1):145-56. doi: 10.1007/s00127-010-0319-7. Epub 2010 Nov 16.

Eugenics, genetics, and mental illness stigma in Chinese Americans.

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th St. 1610, New York, NY 10032, USA. aw258@columbia.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The increasing interest in the genetic causes of mental disorders may exacerbate existing stigma if negative beliefs about a genetic illness are generally accepted. China's history of policy-level eugenics and genetic discrimination in the workplace suggests that Chinese communities will view genetic mental illness less favorably than mental illness with non-genetic causes. The aim of this study is to identify differences between Chinese Americans and European Americans in eugenic beliefs and stigma toward people with genetic mental illness.

METHODS:

We utilized data from a 2003 national telephone survey designed to measure how public perceptions of mental illness differ if the illness is described as genetic. The Chinese American (n = 42) and European American (n = 428) subsamples were analyzed to compare their support of eugenic belief items and measures of stigma.

RESULTS:

Chinese Americans endorsed all four eugenic statements more strongly than European Americans. Ethnicity significantly moderated the relationship between genetic attribution and three out of five stigma outcomes; however, genetic attribution actually appeared to be de-stigmatizing for Chinese Americans while it increased stigma or made no difference for European Americans.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings show that while Chinese Americans hold more eugenic beliefs than European Americans, these attributions do not have the same effect on stigma as they do in Western cultures. These results suggest that future anti-stigma efforts must focus on eugenic attitudes as well as cultural beliefs for Chinese Americans, and that the effects of genetic attributions for mental illness should be examined relative to other social, moral, and religious attributions common in Chinese culture.

PMID:
21079911
PMCID:
PMC3141094
DOI:
10.1007/s00127-010-0319-7
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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