Asian cultural expectations and mental health in Asian American adolescents: Effects of family functioning, child nativity, and subgroup ethnicity
Bynum, Mia S
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The number of Asian immigrants is growing over the past 50 years and Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial population in the U.S. However, few studies have examined the effects of cultural conflicts between parents and children on family functioning and adolescent mental health, especially with a national sample. Using Hwang’s (2006) Acculturative Family Distancing (AFD) model and symbolic interaction theory (LaRossa & Reitzes, 1993), the purpose of this study was to examine how parental expectations of Asian cultural values influence parent-adolescent relationships, which in turn can lead to adolescent mental health problems including depression and somatic symptoms. To conduct this study, Waves I and II data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) was used. The sample included 486 Asian American adolescents with Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or Filipino backgrounds. Findings from structural equation analyses indicated partial support for AFD and for symbolic interactionism. Results also yielded unexpected gender differences with respect to perceptions of parental academic expectations and adolescents’ perceptions of their relationship with their father and mother. Academic expectations were associated with greater caring from father and closeness with father whereas it had no significant relationship with mother-adolescent relationships. Moreover, only father-adolescent relationships mediated the relationship between expectations of Asian cultural values and adolescent somatic symptoms-only. Depression symptoms did not emerge as a significant outcome in this sample. Given the limited literature examining Asian American adolescents from multiple ethnic backgrounds, this study explored the potential moderating role of subgroup ethnicity in these processes. It was also predicted that the proposed processes would be more pronounced among US-born youth as compared to foreign-born youth. However, this study found no moderating effects of child nativity (foreign-born vs. U.S.-born) and subgroup ethnicity (East Asian vs. Filipino) in the relationship between expectations of Asian cultural values, parent-adolescent relationships, and adolescent mental health. The findings of this present study provide evidence that the AFD model partially works for Asian American adolescents and their families from a non-clinical sample, regardless of child nativity and subgroup ethnicity. In addition, this study demonstrates the importance of parental gender roles in the AFD model. Limitations and implications of this study are discussed.