Perceptions Of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Marshallese Teachers And Parents

Smith, Brenda M.
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Educators in Hawai'i are increasingly obligated, due to the socio-historical ties the United States has with Pacific entities such as the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to increase their cultural knowledge about these Micronesian immigrants. This qualitative examination of the perceptions of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the Marshall Islands aims to illuminate the culture of family in the Marshall Islands, adding to educators' collection of knowledge about Marshallese children and their families. Open ended questions based on the American Psychological Association Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV (1994) were asked of 2 parents and 7 teachers during interviews in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Marshallese culture is collectivistic. Tight, crowded living quarters make for an intergenerational approach towards child-rearing. The parental role consists of encouraging children to "do good things," and to act harmoniously within one's home or community. When a child does not heed parental advice, or acts inappropriately, the parent feels shameful. Prevalent themes of pride and shame in the Marshallese culture were revealed during parent interviews. Some parents may hold the belief that ADHD-like behaviors are a result of bad parenting. Both of the parents were familiar with what are considered ADHD-type behaviors in the United States, but neither of the parents was familiar with the term attention/deficit hyperactivity disorder. Among the teachers, four had heard of ADHD, and three had not. However, all of the teachers were familiar with what are considered ADHD-type behaviors in the United States. Teachers attributed ADHD-like behaviors to both bad parenting and a physiologically based problem within the child Though the perception of people with disabilities is improving in the Marshall Islands, behaviors representative of ADHD might be stigmatized. Shame was mentioned by teachers, relating to the frustration of not knowing how to handle children who exhibit ADHD-like behaviors in the classroom, and the likelihood that parents of children who exhibit ADHD-like behaviors, experience a sense of shame. Children who exhibit ADHD-like behaviors are often placed in the "slow learner" category. Time and money constraints of the Ministry of Education might be reason for a broader categorization of children experiencing various disabilities in the Marshall Islands. Behaviors such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention might not be identified as ADHD in the Marshall Islands, but for the most part, children who exhibit these behaviors receive help under the category of "slow learners." Educators in Hawai'i should be aware of the understandings of ADHD-like behaviors among Marshallese families. Marshallese families should be coached through the process of assisting their child both in the home, and in the classroom. This study serves as an educational piece, to support educators in Hawai'i, as their interactions with Marshallese families will surely increase.
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Theses for the degree of Master of Education (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Educational Psychology; no. 527
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