In regards to women, unhealthy helping and giving can arise from behaviors and traits that are culturally approved and encouraged for women. Females are expected to put others first and to be nice and considerate. Traditional feminine roles such as wife, mother, daughter (and daughter-in-law), direct women to take care of other people, make other people’s lives easier by doing things for them, and to care for those that are dependent (providing what is called care labor). Caring for others, and accommodating others, in and outside of the home, is often designated as women’s work and selfless service to others is sold to many of us as a defining feature of the good woman. The bottom line: The way some women understand and identify with their gender and culture promotes unhealthy self-sacrifice and martyrdom for others. They go overboard when it comes to enacting cultural values that emphasize taking care of others. They have trouble telling the difference between excessive caretaking and normal nurturing. They aren’t emotionally or psychologically sick for following this cultural prescription, they’re just trying to be good women in societies where women are expected to subordinate their needs to others. Psychology Today (2017)
Burn, S.M. (2016). Unhealthy Helping: A Psychological Guide to Overcoming Codependence, Enabling, and Other Dysfunctional Giving. Amazon: Create Space.
Chang, S-H (2012). A cultural perspective on codependency and its treatment. Asia Pacific Journal of Counseling and Psychotherapy, 3, 50-60.
Cowan, G., & Warren, L.W. (1994). Codependency and gender-stereotyped traits. Sex Roles, 30, 631-645.
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