Thursday, 17 April 2008

Mental health connection to girls ethnic clothing

A new study by Queen Mary University of London has raised some interesting questions. It suggests that in the UK Bangladeshi girls who wear ‘traditional’ clothes suffer from fewer behavioural and emotional problems than ones who wear more mainstream clothes.

This apparently only applies to females and nothing equivalent could be seen in the mainstream community.

It is extremely doubtful that the actual clothes make any the difference, and the report does not claim it does. There is likely to be some indirect link.

One of the authors of the study, Professor Kam Bhui, , felt the result was "surprising", having expected the reverse. He conjectured the reason could be:

"Traditional clothing represents a tighter family unit, and this may offer some protection against some of the pressures that young people face.

"What it suggests is that we need to assist people who are moving from traditional cultures and becoming integrated into Western societies, as they may be more vulnerable to mental health problems."

One wonders if it has occurred to the reports authors that yes traditional clothing does indeed indicate a tighter less integrated family with more ‘traditional’ attitudes towards females and all that that implies.

Bangladeshi girls that don’t resist this come under less pressure from their families. They are often resident in effectively ghettoised areas, where this is the prevailing attitude and may well attend schools containing a significant number of girls from similar backgrounds.

Girls from traditional families under these circumstances that choose to step outside the somewhat narrow confines of this, to embrace a more mainstream ‘western’ lifestyle are surely more likely to come under increased pressure from the family, face the possibility of disapproval, loosing family support in some cases - and in some extreme cases even the possible threat of honour killing.

These factors are bound to undermine their equilibrium.

A comparison with girls of more mainstream integrated Indian decent might prove instructive.