Saturday, October 25, 2008
This thesis is completed with prayers of many and sacrificial love of my family and friends. I would like to thank all my fellow friends who had helped me in brainstorming, recruiting participants, and providing information for this study. However, there are a few people that I would like to specially acknowledge and extend my heartfelt gratitude who have made the completion of this research possible:
I want to thank the Department of Community Medicine of Hong Kong University for giving me permission to commence this thesis in the first instance, to do the necessary research work. I have furthermore to thank my supervisor Prof. Richard Fielding for he had given me his full support in guiding me with stimulating suggestions and encouragement to go ahead in all the time of research for and writing of this thesis. I am bound to Prof. Victor Wong Cheong Wing from the University of Baptist Hong Kong of the help and inspiration he extended. I am deeply indebted to my friend Prof. Lee V. Hamilton from the University of Baptist Hong Kong for the help in proofreading and given me various suggestions on how to improve the writing of this thesis.
My colleagues from the Department of Community Medicine had supported me in various areas of this research work. I want to thank them for all their help, support, interest and valuable hints. Especially I am obliged to Miss Patsy Chau Y.K. and Dr. Janice M. Johnston. Miss Joyce Fung H.Y. for her great help in administrative work.
My special thanks to the following people, Miss Vivian Chan W.Y. and Miss Wihelmina Ko Yuk Hang who had extended their help of the illustrations; Miss Hori Yukiko, Mr. Onishi Toshisada and Miss Connie Mak, Mr. Matthias Buerki, Miss Barbara Chan CY, Miss Flora Wu Da Dong, Miss Genie Au Lok Sang, Mr. Alex Wong Weng Wah, Mr. Shane D. Wright had gave me their greatest support in brainstorming and often of great help in difficult times.I would like to thank Full Gospel Assembly Kuala Lumpur of their prayers and financial support in making the printing of the bookmarks available. Most especially to my family and friends: Catherine, Sun Sun, Peter, Boh Yean and Bee Ngee. And to God, who made all things possible.
Introduction: Hikikomori, a term referred to a person who is in social withdrawal, and who has strictly confined him/herself in a room or house for a continuous period of six months or more, had attracted significant media and academic attention. Hikikomori have no previous diagnosis of existing mental-illness, and because of abrupt onset and association with negative media reports, the phenomenon had created tension and raised public health concerns. The interesting phenomena that arose with this problem among academics were debates about etiology and interventions. This study used a mixed-methods qualitative approach to explore hikikomori.
Purpose: This study was designed to explore the nature of hikikomori experience and investigated the phenomenon of hikikomori, comparing and contrasting findings with the previous studies and claims, using grounded theory analysis of qualitative data.
Methods: A mixed-methods approach was necessarily adopted to recruit the sample. Snowball sampling methods and virtual participant observation approaches were adopted to circumvent the difficulties in both identifying and recruiting participants.
Data analysis: Grounded theory approach to qualitative analysis.
Results: Eight respondents were recruited using snowball sampling methods, and 160 participants were observed of the virtual participant observation method. Analysis produced three emergent themes, “Coping”, “Trust”, and “Existence”. Each theme comprised one or more categories, which in turn evidenced a number of different elements. Definitive characteristics of hikikomori were obtained from respondents through virtual participant observation. The emergent theoretical framework and the list are mutually supportive in the results obtained from this study, which suggested emotional pain exists in hikikomori in relation to human relationships. The results of the present study suggest that hikikomori is characterized by more diffuse features, including difficulties in coping with people or tasks, difficulties with trust, unhappiness about life and poor concept of time. There was no evidence of violent or aggressive behaviours.
Conclusion: The findings in this study suggest that hikikomori should not be taken lightly nor be considered comparable to depression, agoraphobia or other mental illness. The differences between self-perceived and other-perceived characteristics of hikikomori suggest existing interventions may be inappropriate, and challenges the perspective of time and target subjects. Data suggested that most Hikikomori are deeply unhappy about life and have a low quality of life and poor self-esteem, suggesting early intervention is most likely to be beneficial. The data also suggests that hikikomori is not a cultural-bound social illness limited only to Japanese, but a growing cross-cultural phenomenon.
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