Meaning in life of helping professionals in Hong Kong: Associations with their perceived self-competence in death work.

Chan Wallace Chi Ho

Affiliation: Chinese University of Hong Kong

other panellists:

  • Ching-Wen Chang  – Help-Seeking in the Chinese Culture
  • Ching Man LAM –Meaning of parenthood among Chinese parents in Hong Kong: Themes discerned in a quality study
  • Siu-ming To –   Meaning in life and existential anxiety among Chinese adolescents living in Hong Kong: Implications for meaning-oriented youth counselling and youth development programmes


implications for practice: This symposium may arouse our reflections on how meaning can be manifested among different target groups in practice in the Chinese context.

implications for research: This symposium shows how meaning is measured and assessed in different research studies in the Chinese context.


The importance of meaning is universal, but how meaning is made or found could be culturally specific. In this symposium, we aim to provide a platform for participants to reflect on how meaning is manifested among people in different life stages and roles in the Chinese context. Different presentations will address how children make sense of the separation with parents, how adolescents perceive meaning in life and existential anxiety, how adults narrate the meaning of parenthood, how people perceive help-seeking in relation to the cultural values, and how helping professionals are confronted by the existential challenges in working with death, and how meaning may help them to cope with these challenges. Different ways of understanding and exploring meanings in the Chinese context will also be shared, e.g. exploration via play groups, use of measurements in quantitative studies, literature review, and conducting in-depth interviews in a qualitative study.

After attending this symposium, it is hoped that participants may enrich their cultural sensitivity and with cultural understanding on meaning-related issues in the Chinese context. Different participants, like helping professionals and academics are welcome to attend this symposium, and it would also be a valuable opportunity for participants of different cultures and backgrounds to exchange their ideas on meaning.


Ching-Wen Chang

Title: Help Seeking in the Chinese Culture

Affiliation: The Chinese University of Hong Kong


Help seeking is an important coping strategy to solve life problems. This presentation will focus on a literature review on factors affecting help seeking behaviors and underline meanings in help seeking specifically in the traditional Chinese culture as well as the practice implications. Due to the belief that family has an obligation to help individual overcome personal problems, family is often the first line of help among Chinese. However, feeling of losing face may lead to seeking help from people outside of the family. In terms of help seeking from acquaintances, the feeling of losing face also could be a barrier. In selecting the source of help, the help seeker also would evaluate the possibility to return the favor. The literature has suggested that Chinese clients’ personal preference on the sources of help and the best decision for help seeking may not be reflected in their help seeking behaviors. Due to the concern of losing face and evaluations on the possibility to return the favor, help seeking could mean creating extra problems for many Chinese clients. Therefore, in working with Chinese clients, the meaning of losing face would need to be discussed and the concern of possibility to return the favor would need to be addressed. In addition, when working with Chinese clients concerning losing face due to help seeking, practitioners would need to help them develop alternative meanings for help seeking in order to best use of the available sources of social support.


Siu-ming To

Title: Meaning in life and existential anxiety among Chinese adolescents living in Hong Kong: Implications for meaning-oriented youth counselling and youth development programmes

Affiliation: The Chinese University of Hong Kong


Although Western academia has increasingly recognized the importance of studying meaning in life and existential anxiety among adolescents, this increasing trend is incompatible with the limited number of related research in Chinese societies. In this presentation, a sketch of three studies undertaken by the presenter on Hong Kong Chinese adolescents’ meaning in life and existential anxiety will be given. The first study (n=373) examined how presence of meaning and sources of meaning interact and contribute to the psychological well-being of adolescents. The second study (n=670) investigated how search for meaning and loneliness interact and influence adolescents’ psychological well-being. The third study (n=1,205) explored the relationships between existential anxiety, meaning in life, and psychological well-being among young people. The findings of these studies offer significant references for practitioners to rethink the direction of intervention and prevention on both counselling and programme levels. First, the findings imply that a shift from a problem-based orientation to an orientation that seeks to work with adolescents’ life process and existential concerns should be promoted. Second, as the findings suggest possible different interpretations of meaning in life and existential anxiety in Chinese culture, practitioners should enhance their cultural awareness for assessment and intervention. Specifically, an individualist approach to meaning-making may limit our understanding of the inter-relational grounds for meaning exploration in Chinese culture. Furthermore, while experiencing existential anxiety seems to carry different meanings among Chinese adolescents, practitioners should consider how adolescents can be supported to live with and even embrace the givens of life and death.



Ching Man LAM

Title: Meaning of parenthood among Chinese parents in Hong Kong: Themes discerned in a quality study

Affiliation: The Chinese University of Hong Kong



Although the importance of culture has been well-recognized in research on culture and parenting, attempts to address the cultural meaning of parenthood or to address the belief systems and meaning-making processes of parenting is meager and is non-existent in Hong Kong. This presentation draws on findings from a qualitative study to examine the cultural themes that account for Chinese parents’ construction on meaning of parenthood. Employing qualitative study method of narrative inquiry, 120 in-depth interviews with 60 parents had been conducted. Each of the parent was interviewed individually for twice and there were 30 mothers and 30 fathers involved. Narrative accounts of parents reveal generational shifts in meaning of parenthood, parental responsibility and identify as a parent. The findings provide indigenous understanding on meaning of parenthood and parenting practice in the Hong Kong Chinese cultural context. Based on the findings, the presentation discusses implications for parenting work and proposes directions for child and parenting services.