African Americans experience major health issues at disproportionate levels to the dominant Euro-American culture. These health issues include hypertension, heart conditions, diabetes, and stroke. For instance, African American men have 40 percent greater heart conditions than the dominant culture, and women have 64% greater differences. The rate of strokes is even higher, as African American women have an 80% greater risk of stroke than Euro-American women. The predominant theory of the increased stress levels that result in these conditions is that African Americans experience stress as a result of tension caused by prejudice from the dominant culture.
There are a number of specific historical dynamics that counseling professionals must familiarize themselves with when acting as helping professionals to African American patients. One of the major considerations helping professionals must make concerns about the divergent dynamics of the family structure between African and Euro Americans. One of the stereotypes of the African American woman is that they are domineering. This image has surfaced as in many instances African American females are the main providers of family income. There are also a high number of African American families where the mother is the only parent in the household.
While many attribute this fact to corresponding difficulties in American culture, Bryan points out that, due to the community structure, “ Female-headed households can and most often are stable households” (pg. 144). Misconceptions are also rampant when considering the role of the African American father. In order to oppress males during the slavery period, slave masters engaged in techniques to psychologically degrade the African American male. This is where conceptions of the black male as “ lazy, ignorant, and not worthy of trust” (Bryan, pg.
145) arose from. Furthermore, the stereotype of African American males as poor fathers is a misconception, and when given access to adequate economic resources to provide for their children, they have proved to be effective fathers. Traits of African American child-rearing include strong kinship bonds (Hill 1972, as cited in Bryan 2007); other traits include authoritarianism, “ positive attitudes towards childbearing… strong attention to non-verbal communication” .
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