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Rethinking Dependent Personality Disorder: Comparing Different Human Relatedness in Cultural Contexts

Chen, YuJu Psy.D*; Nettles, Margaret E. PhD; Chen, Shun-Wen PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: November 2009 - Volume 197 - Issue 11 - p 793-800
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181be76ae
Original Article

We argue that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders dependent personality disorder is a culturally related concept reflecting deeply rooted values, beliefs, and assumptions of American individualistic convictions about self and interpersonal relationship. This article integrates social psychology concepts into the exploration of psychopathology. Beginning with the construct of individualism and collectivism, we demonstrate the limitations of this commonly used framework. The indigenous Chinese concept of Confucianism and Chinese Relationalism is introduced to highlight that a well-differentiated self is not a universal premise of human beings, healthy existence. In East Asian Confucianism the manifestation of dependence and submission may be considered individuals’ proper behavior and required for their social obligation, rather than a direct display of individuals’ personality. Thus, the complexity of dependent personality disorder is beyond the neo-Kraepelinian approach assumed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders system.

*Asian Community Mental Health Services, Oakland, CA; †Alliant International University, San Francisco, CA; and ‡Center for General Education, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Margaret E. Nettles is currently at West Coast Children's Clinic, Oakland, CA.

Send reprint requests to YuJu Chen Psy.D, Asian Community Mental Health Services, Oakland, CA. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.