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Disrespect and Isolation: Elder Abuse in Chinese Communities*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2010

Sandra Tam
Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
Sheila Neysmith
Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
E-mail address:


Based on a qualitative study of home care workers, this paper aims to understand elder abuse of Chinese Canadians. The findings show disrespect is the key form elder abuse takes in the Chinese community. As a culturally specific form of abuse, disrespect remains invisible under categories of elder abuse derived from a Western cultural perspective. Applying a social exclusion framework to understand the dynamic of elder abuse, we argue that as a marginalized racial minority immigrant, an elderly Chinese person's vulnerability to abuse is increased under conditions of social isolation.


Basé sur une étude qualitative portant sur les soins à domicile, cet article vise à comprendre les mauvais traitements infligés aux sino-canadiens âgés. Les résultats montrent que, au sein de la communauté chinoise, les mauvais traitements prennent le plus souvent la forme d'un manque de respect. En tant que forme d'abus spécifique à une certaine culture, le manque de respect est un mauvais traitement qui demeure invisible lorsqu'on l'analyse dans une perspective culturelle occidentale. En nous servant d'un cadre centré sur l'exclusion sociale pour comprendre la dynamique des abus infligés aux aînés, nous soutenons que, en tant que minorité raciale d'immigrants marginalisés, les personnes âgées d'origine chinoise sont particulièrement vulnérables aux mauvais traitements dans un contexte d'isolement social.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2006

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We thank the managers, coordinators, and staff at Carefirst Seniors and Community Services Association for initiating and supporting this research under the City of Toronto's Breaking the Cycle of Violence grants program. We also thank the anonymous reviewers whose critical assessments of earlier drafts helped us write a better paper.


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