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Ethnic Differences and Coping with Trauma

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Ethnic differences exist in all parts of the world ranging from the learning, economic and social interaction. The most common ethnic differences in America in the one regarding performance of students, the most fascinating and typical ones are the African Americans and Asian Americans (Mash, & Barkley, 2006). In other parts of the world, it has been found that different ethnic communities relate at times in a manner that create friction and sour relationship. This worsens when one of the minority groups are residing in a place where there are other majority groups (Perlmann, 1989). Friction is always created when the minorities seem to be excelling than the indigenous ethnic group. This results in unfair treatment in the part of the minor ethnic in relation to all aspects of life. This creates trauma and their life is changed completely and thereby forcing them to come up with ways that can enable to survive the challenges. This study is aimed at identifying ways in which people faced with the challenge of ethnic differences deal with the trauma that accompanies the treatment (Clauss-Ehlers, 2009).


The history of ethnicity is never constant as one move from one society to the other because of different cultures that exist in the world. Any ethnic group can be majority in one part of the world and be a minority in some other part of the world. This also means that the treatment they are going to face is not going to be constant as they move from one part of the world to the other. One ethnic group may become hospitable to the minority while others may become hostile in the way they treat each other (McGoldrick, et al 2005). Those who may be treated with hostility do not always have a smooth life to live and they are faced with trauma of all kinds.

In the U.S for instance, ethnic minorities arise due to the immigrants who may come to live there. Some like majority of black from poor backgrounds and may live in the poorest suburbs (Osofsky, & Pruett, 2007). There is a great possibility that hostility will be encountered in the place of work. To make matters worse, their children will be treated unfairly in class resulting in poor performance and hostile behaviors. In various states, the traumas faced by the aggrieved groups have resulted violence development. In relation to whites, some of the minority groups in the U.S include the black immigrants, Hispanics, Italians, Jews, and the Irish among others (Billings, &Moos 1981). Understanding the ethnic differences in the United States is made possible by looking at the perspectives like the pre-migration history of the ethnic group, the conditions of migration, the level of discrimination that the group faces in the new environment, and the position that the group holds in the economy and the social stratification of that particular place (Figley, 1985).

Aims and objectives

The success of this study will depend upon the identification of concise research question that will guarantee the collection of data in the easiest way possible. The research question formulated for this study will be congruent with the aims and objectives, and will read as follows; how do ethnic minorities deal with the trauma the face from the majorities? In addition, this study will seek to identify the types of trauma faced by minority groups, the causes of the trauma, and the reasons for the treatment they receive from the majority ethnic groups (Billings, &Moos 1981).

Theoretical Framework

Besides the formulation of the research question, the success of this study largely depended on fact and writings by various authors relating to this topic. A number of authors have done their research and shared their thought on how the minority category of people deal with the trauma that they encounter as a result of discrimination for the majority ethnic group. Joel Perlmann in his book “Ethnic Differences: Schooling and Social Structure Among the Irish, Italians, Jews, and Blacks in an American City, 1880-1935,” explores the causes of the differences in the schooling and the economic success of the minority groups like the Irish, Italians, Jews, and the blacks (Perlmann, 1989). He brings out a clear evidence collected from many students who have attended either public, Catholic, and private schools. He has done all the best to comb the American ethnic diversity in the fields of education, economic success, and social structure. It is through this book that we can be able to identify that ethnicity has a great influence in the success of a person in terms of economy and in class. This could be because of the treatment they face from the majority groups and the trauma that follows (Perlmann, 1989).

Caroline Clauss-Ehlers in the “Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology” has combined contributions from various psychological practitioners. Various concepts and themes have been investigated regarding the relationship between various cultures. The author for instance points out those negatively worded items have been found to create large problems within cultures (Clauss-Ehlers, 2009). In addition, we are able to understand that traumatic events that occur outside normal human experience create a lot of stress. The author also points out that culture influences the way individuals or groups respond and manage trauma they face from those who mistreats them. Culture also influences the healing process of those who are survivors of a mistreatment. Additionally, the author points out that Latino/Hispanics and Americans have shown high cases of avoidance as a way of coping with ethnic-based trauma. African Americans on the other hand have shown low levels of avoiding but show increased arousal signs (Clauss-Ehlers, 2009). The reason for the response the Africans could due to increased level of racial oppression and continued racism.

“Trauma and Its Wake: The study and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder” is book by Charles Figley who has spent his time discussing critical variables that affect the social psychology and interpersonal readjustment as a result of ethnic-based treatment. Charles for instance focuses on individuals with ethno-cultural identifications that result in the establishment of stress and subsequent traumatic conditions (Figley, 1985). The author stresses the point that it is important to understand how various individuals respond to trauma that result from ethnic-based treatment. This is aimed at devising possible ways and alternatives that can help them to recover and live normal lives. It is also through this book that we are able to understand how ethnicity might shape the intensity of trauma faced by a minority group. Additionally, the author calls everyone interested in helping victims of such trauma to recover to understand trans-ethnicity and other cultural behavioral norms (Figley, 1985).

In their book “Ethnicity and family therapy,” McGoldrick, Giordano, and Garcia-Preto provides clinical references that could be used by various families as possible solutions to cultural and ethnic sensitive mistreatment and the consequent trauma. This has been made possible by demonstrating various ethno-cultural factors that influence the assumptions of the victims regarding their treatment (McGoldrick, et al 2005). Additionally, the authors have provided useful resources to therapist so that they can be able to use in helping victims who have ethnic-based trauma because of their few numbers. Stress and anxiety are pointed out as some of the symptoms and ways of coping up with such trauma. Other reactions pointed out include sadness, shame, helplessness, and aggression. Some individuals are also shown to isolate themselves as a way of coping up with trauma. The aggression has been seen to extend to the point of creating rigid family ties that makes someone unconsciously silent for a long time (McGoldrick, et al 2005).

“Young Children and Trauma: Intervention and Treatment,” is a book by Osofsky and Pruett and provides interventions to counter the trauma on children because of the ethnic affiliations. Traumatize the authors point out that the children especially in school may be treated in a manner that may make them in one way or the other. This often results in changes in the behavior of the affected children from being high performing students to poor performers. They point out specifically the children of the minority blacks who may resort to use of drugs as a way of coping up with the stress. This thereby form a good base for parent and other willing therapist to provide solutions that may make the affected child return to normalcy (Osofsky, & Pruett, 2007). This book also identifies violence as one way that minority groups can use as a way of coping up with the trauma. They children have been to become violent to the majority groups and some of them have lost their in the event of the violence.

“Psychological trauma and the adult survivor: theory, therapy, and transformation” as authored by McCann and Pearlman describes the symptoms of the psychological trauma depicted by victims who have been ethnically mistreated. The authors have described various theories surrounding the psychological trauma and behaviors of victims perceived to be minorities (McCann, & Pearlman, 1990). The authors to those who have been ethnically sidelined and later traumatized also offer possible therapies. It is also through this book that we can be able to follow the sequential treatment of trauma in individuals because of victimization of their minority ethnic group. The best-illustrated example used by the authors is the one that results from child abuse and child labor. They are able to find a direct link of ethnically mistreated children and criminal activities. Children who are mistreated at their tender age by the other majority groups have been found to engage in crime related activities as a way of dealing with the trauma they undergo (McCann, & Pearlman, 1990). Children also encounter traumatic situations when individuals who are entrusted to care for them exploit sexually. This happens in home care centers where minority blacks are abused by their caregivers. Such children may resort to prostitution as way of coping with the stress.  

In their book, “Suicide among racial and ethnic minority groups: theory, research, and practice”, Leong, and Leach are to indicate that suicide has been increasing at alarming rates among the minorities who have been ethnically mishandled. (Leong, & Leach, 2008). This is seen as one way in which they are using in order to avoid other form of mistreatment in the future. The use of suicide is seen to intersect all psychological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors of the societies that have been ethnically sidelined. The authors point out that suicide may remain to be the most common and suitable ways in which minority groups who may feel sidelined will exploit in order cope up with the trauma. Research done by all established experts in multicultural counseling and suicidology have pointed out clearly that ethnic discrimination will remain to be the greatest catalyst of suicide. The authors of this book have spent their valuable to classify six broad categories of ethnically sidelined groups and the include African American, American Indian, Asian American, European American, Hawaiian and pacific islander, and the Hispanics (Leong, & Leach, 2008). By categorizing these groups, the experts are able to find their suicidal trends and thereby able to find appropriate treatment considerations.

Drozdek, and Wilson in their book, “Voices of trauma: treating psychological trauma across        cultures” have spent a great deal of their time to describe the cultures of the minorities who have been ethnically mistreated in order to build an informed base of helping them to recover (Drozdek, & Wilson, 2007). Insights from psychiatry and social psychology provide a productive framework that specialists can to provide coping skills to the victims of traumatizing ethnicity. Additionally, the authors explore the balance between the victims and those who are the cause of the trauma in order to dispel the misconceptions that usually surround such traumatized individuals. Silence is identified as the best coping strategy that is employed by victims of ethnic and racial discrimination. The authors also identify violence as a choice for those who may feel utterly bitter from the mistreatment and trauma. The authors provide us with important tools that can be used by specialist like psychotherapists and rescue workers to assist the victims to recover (Drozdek, & Wilson, 2007).

The information provided by Keung, Rasheed, and Mikal “Family therapy with ethnic minorities,” is very useful for this study because it provides a critical evaluation of the demographic changes that accompany ethnically sidelined individuals due the scarcity of their numbers in places where they reside(Keung, et al 2003). The authors are able to clearly point out  that minority individuals who may be regarded as creating some sort of competition in places where the reside have been found to fall victims of racism and ethnic sidelining. Trauma has been found to vary between the minorities groups in America that have been identified by the author. In addition, the authors provide reliable skills that can be used by their families to help the victims of the trauma to recover. It is in this book that we can be able to identify the First Nations Peoples and African American families as the greatest victims being ethnically traumatized (Keung, et al 2003).

Research designs and methods

In order to obtain the intended objectives as formulated in the research, a number of primary methods were used. A questionnaire was used as the primary method of data collection. A well-structured questionnaire was formulated and contained probing questions that would ensure that the correct answers were obtained from those whom they were administered to the victims. The use of this method of obtaining the required data is reliable and facts are recorded instantly thus merited. The method is also advantageous because information is obtained from the correct person and not second hand, which would otherwise lead to distortion of results. The presence of the person who is administering the questionnaire is also an advantage for this method because the questions that have not been understood may further be explained in more understandable manner. The method is however is too involving and cumbersome. Additionally, it was realized that open-ended questions generated took longer time to be answered and took long time to be analyzed while some respondents made a lot exaggeration in some other questions (Seale, 2004).

The questionnaire that was used in this research consisted of five questions all of them geared towards achieving the objectives of the research. Some of the questions included among the following: Who are ethnic minority groups? Do these groups cope up with the trauma that they face? Which groups of the minorities are more sidelined? In what forms are the groups victimized or sidelined? In order to minimize errors and enhance accuracy two hundred and fifty questionnaires were prepared and administered over randomly selected individuals in the residential areas of the minority groups (Seale, 2004). Additionally, some of the questionnaires were administered to the individuals who did not belong to the minority groups. Results were then collected and analyzed before reaching at the conclusion.

The other primary method that was used in this study was direct interview with identified victimized clients. Interview however had fewer questions than the questionnaire but answers were more detailed because the interviewer could use various skills to identify if the person being interviewing had answered the questions correctly(Bulatao,  & Anderson, 2004). Wherever a mistake was realized, the interviewer would immediately devise ways that would ensure the question is correctly answered. The method however has some limitations. This includes the exercise itself being too involving and sometimes affected by language barrier or handling illiterate clients. The interviewer also was expected to avail himself to the client unlike the use of questionnaire where it would just be sent to trusted clients. Few interviews were however carried out because they were just aimed to supplement the questionnaire. Data collected was then analyzed and relevant results recorded (Seale, 2004).

In the course of the research however, there were instances that required the use of secondary sources with the aim of primarily giving weight to the data that were already collected. Our research used library search as and indexing and involved the research panel going through written texts that had similar topic on the ways in which ethnically, sidelined individuals could cope up with the trauma that they encounter (Bulatao,  & Anderson, 2004). This method was the best alternative of secondary sources because it provides trusted results and data thus enhancing the accuracy of the data being collected (Seale, 2004). Additionally, the analysis required minimal time and limited skills from the research panel. This method however had a limitation because it was difficult to obtain the exact required data and thus several texts were to be analyzed. This consumed some good quality time in the research (Seale, 2004).

Analysis and discussion

After completion of the research and findings analyzed, various groups in America were identified as being ethnically sidelined and had suffered trauma and their live had drastically changed. The groups identified as being ethnically sidelined include African American, American Indian, Asian American, European American, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and the Hispanics. These have encountered various forms of being ethnically mistreated and they have devised ways in which they intend to cope up with the discrimination (Osofsky, & Pruett, 2007). The forms of discrimination that they face have been seen to depend on the social class of the individuals and economic status. Individuals who belong in the lower level of a socially stratified society have been seen to bear the highest brunt of discrimination. Those who have economically challenged and appear to depend menial jobs to succeed in life are also victims of discrimination (McGoldrick, et al 2005).

Areas of discrimination identified include the ways in which their teachers and their fellow students treat children in school. In the residential areas and places of work, individuals have been sidelined in relation to the task they are being given (Keung, et al 2003). To make matters worse, they are given little pay compared to their colleagues. Such treatments, which are ethnically based, has resulted in their suffering and have been forced to devise ways which c an enable to live a better comfortable live regardless of what they are facing (Leong, & Leach, 2008). The way they also behave has made psychiatrists, psychologists, and other caregivers to develop ways that can be used to enable the victims recover from the trauma in they are undergoing (Hofstede, 2001).

Responses to trauma have been to vary from individual to individual and are not generally constant. People have been seen to show heightened anxiety and fear, irritability, sadness, and moodiness(Mash, & Barkley, 2006). The reaction may also extend to include the feeling of numbness, and hopelessness. In the event that a traumatic event reoccurs, the individuals have been to encounter intrusive images of the event, distressing nightmares, and flashbacks of that event. The individuals also are seen to develop a feeling of estrangement or isolation while others become hypervigilant and tend to scan the environment seeking to revenge those who have caused the trauma. Other effects of the trauma include difficulty in concentration, and a feeling of being confused. The physical effect of the trauma may include headache, nausea, fatigue, and insomnia (Martin, & Soldo, 1997). The behavioural characteristics of trauma include the already mentioned tendency to behave irritably, withdrawal, avoidances of certain activities, and places that may lead to the reoccurrence of the traumatic event (Osofsky, & Pruett, 2007).

Silence is one of the ways identified as a means used ethnically sidelined individuals to cope up with the trauma they face. This is seen to cut across all the groups identified as being ethnically sidelined and is not specific to a particular group (Hofstede, 2001). Silence is a strategy that the individuals use in order to avoid the reoccurrence of the traumatic event. This is because encountering the individuals who might have perpetrated the trauma may aggravate the feeling and lead to subsequent dangerous reactions. Isolation is another way that that the individuals seem to fuse with their silence. These tactics are employed in management of trauma. Those who cannot bear the pain of being trauma have been seen to contemplate on committing suicide in case the post-traumatic event is utterly unbearable (Drozdek, & Wilson, 2007).

Some traumatized individuals have been seen to engaging in violence as one way of dealing with trauma. The violence is seen to be directed to those who may have  caused the trauma as way of revenging. This is greatly depicted by children who are treated unfairly in school or in other residential areas (McCann, & Pearlman, 1990). Some even to crime related activities so that they can get the opportunity to revenge. Some who may have been over worked may resort to bed rest as way of dealing with physical trauma. This is seen as the best way to help the victim to recover without affecting the lives of others in a manner that may cause trauma to others (Leong, & Leach, 2008).

In the course of the study, various remedies that could be useful to psychiatrists and psychologist were identified. These people may help in assisting the traumatized individuals in returning to normalcy and facing life afresh. The specialists should allow the victims to share their thoughts and feelings about their situation (Figley, 1985). The caseworkers should also treat the victims with remorse so that they can be able to understand them well. A trauma support group should be instituted so that the victims can be helped to come out of the stress. Supportive activities should be instituted so that the victims can be visited at their homes and be encouraged to recover from the stress (Perlmann, 1989). The victims could also be taught the art of forgiving as way of recovery so that they can avoid future occurrence of the trauma.


Every society has some element of ethnic difference and this may influence the way in which people relate or treat each other. Some of the ways in which people relate has resulted in perpetuation of traumatic incidences in the lives of those who may originate from the ethnic minority group. The group identified to suffer most from the trauma of ethnic discrimination is the African Americans but others groups are relatively discriminated (Drozdek, & Wilson, 2007). Questionnaires, interviews, and secondary sources were used as the ways of collecting data and it was identified that silence, isolation, and violence are some of the major ways in which the individuals cope up with the trauma arising from ethnic discrimination. Psychologists and psychiatrists have been identified as the people who can assist traumatized individuals from recovering (Mash, & Barkley, 2006). It is also important that the government can initiate the harmonization of ethnic groups that are always in conflict.

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