Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Mary Katherine O'Connor


The continuum of care framework posits that individuals move from one level to the next in seeking resources for help ranging from first using informal support to finally using formal services. Yet, the literature is mostly focused on formal services. It is well-known in the literature that existing formal services are underutilized by the Asian American population. If that is also the case in nontraditional settlement cities like Richmond, Virginia, the continuum of care framework and existing literature suggest that Asian Americans are turning to their informal support networks to meet their needs. Thus far, the literature on informal support networks is very limited and a focus on Asian American communities is nonexistent. Furthermore, there is not an adequate theory to explain and predict this phenomenon. This study uses a grounded theory design to develop a testable theory that could further the understanding of informal support networks in the Asian American community. The theory posits that the Asian culture and community influence how individuals within the community seek help in times of need and, in turn, the helping process developed within the informal support network is a reinforcement of the Asian culture and community. When individuals have needs, they look to the informal support network and the network is developed in response to those needs. However, the informal support network is not able to meet all the needs of the Asian American community. At times, though infrequent, when the informal support network cannot meet the need, individuals are referred to mainstream services. Therefore, the informal support network serves as a gatekeeper to mainstream services. In addition, needs are rarely successfully met directly by mainstream services because of inaccessibility. Consequently, mainstream services provide infrequent help in meeting the needs of the Asian American community. It is important to comprehend how these developing communities in the new South are responding to their own needs. This understanding will allow mainstream services to extend formal systems of care and better partner with existing resources to effectively serve the increasing Asian American population in the South.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

Included in

Social Work Commons