Cross-cultural differences in the meaning and experience of the universal biologic phenomenon of the menopause have been well documented. Very few studies, however, have focused on the response to the midlife transition among ethnic minority women in the United States, and even fewer exist about Asian American women. This exploratory study compared the perceptions and experiences of the midlife transition among Japanese American and European American women. The midlife transition was viewed as a time of self-assurance, maturity, and taking comfort and satisfaction in oneself. Biologically, it was a marker of mortality. Similar to menses, marriage, and motherhood, menopause was viewed as the final identity transformation, but interpreted quite differently by the two ethnic groups. The findings of this study support the cross-cultural theories that emphasize the interaction of biology, society, age, gender, and acculturation in this universal female experience and suggest additional expansion of these theories to incorporate lifestyle choices that may affect the actual health consequences of female aging.
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