The effects of ethnic identity and acculturation on the mental health service utilization of Haitians

Audrey Brutus, Pace University


An underutilization of a variety of services including healthcare and mental health services (MHS) among Haitians in the United States has been cited in the literature. Empirical evidence suggests that several factors may account for the underutilization, such as language barriers, lack of financial resources, acculturation, cultural and historical factors. Inconsistent operational definitions for acculturation in acculturation scales, such as the number of years in the U.S. and knowledge of English have partly accounted for different findings in the literature related to the relationship between acculturation and utilization of services among Haitians. This study examined the relationship between the acculturation levels of Haitians living in the U.S. and the type of MHS they seek. Both cognitive and behavioral aspects of acculturation were accounted for utilizing the Scale of Ethnic Experience (SEE) and the Stephenson Multigroup Acculturation Scale (SMAS). Differences in acculturation levels and MHS utilization among native Haitians and non-immigrant Haitians in the U.S. were also examined. The sample consisted of 98 Haitians residing in New York and Florida between the ages of 18 and 50. Participants were recruited from college Haitian student organizations in both states and St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Florida. The survey was translated in French and Kreyol using the back-translation method and participants completed surveys in the language of their choice. The role of acculturation levels in Haitians' views of MHS or their utilization of U.S. mainstream MHS was not supported. However, certain subscales, specifically the ethnic identity and social affiliation/intimacy subscales of the SEE, were predictive of more positive views towards MHS and the ethnic identity subscale was also significantly negatively related to utilization of U.S.-mainstream MHS. Generation differences did not play a significant role in views towards MHS nor utilization of U.S.-mainstream MHS. Significant exploratory findings were further discussed. In addition, limitations of the current study, directions for further research and implications for interventions were addressed.

Subject Area

Black studies|Mental health|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Brutus, Audrey, "The effects of ethnic identity and acculturation on the mental health service utilization of Haitians" (2008). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3340538.



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