Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16772 Racial Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms Among Asian Americans: The Role of Coping Strategies and Resources

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 10:30 AM
Constitution D (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Isok Kim, MSW MA, Doctoral Candidate, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Michael Spencer, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
PURPOSE: Despite rapid growth of the Asian Americans (AAs) population in recent decades, research on racial discrimination on AAs continues to lag behind other minority groups. Current literature on racial discrimination among AAs indicates ethnic identity and social support in mediating the relationship between racial discrimination and depression. However, past studies have not fully explored how AA's nativity status influence in coping with racial discrimination. This study examined the protective roles of emotional support, critical ethnic awareness, and coping strategies on the impact of racial discrimination on depression among AAs using three main hypotheses in racial discrimination context: 1) critical ethnic awareness will predict a decreased level of depressive symptoms in addition to emotional support; 2) engagement coping strategies will predict a decreased level of depressive symptoms; and 3) disengagement coping strategies will predict an increased level of depressive symptoms.

METHOD: A total of 410 Asian American adults had responded and completed an online survey administered in June and July of 2010. We used the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale as the outcome measure to assess for respondents' depressive symptom level. For predictor variables, we used the General Ethnic Discrimination scale and Perpetual Foreigner Stress scale to measure racial discrimination experiences and stress related to these experiences; Social Support measure to measure emotional support; Critical Awareness scale to measure critical ethnic awareness; and Coping Strategies Inventory to measure general and discrimination specific coping. We used 390 cases to run hierarchical regression analyses, with each of the five predictor dimensions added in successive analyses. The analyses examined the association between racial discrimination and level of depressive symptoms, while considering emotional support, critical ethnic awareness, and coping strategies as predictors, stratified by the respondents' nativity status.

RESULTS: Controlling for sociodemographic factors, the results supported findings from past literature indicating that higher Perpetual Foreigner Stress scores predicted a significant increase (B=.215, p<.01) in depressive symptoms among U.S.-born, but not in the foreign-born subgroup. As hypothesized, higher emotional support predicted a significant decrease (B=-.264, p<.001), while higher general disengagement coping strategies predicted a significant increase (B=.261, p<.001), in depressive symptom level among the U.S.-born AAs. Among foreign-born AAs, two discrimination measures did not predict significant changes in the level of depressive symptoms. However, critical ethnic awareness predicted a significant decrease (B=-.146, p<.05), after accounting for the emotional support, among foreign-born AAs only. In addition, higher general (B=.228, p<.01) as well as discrimination-specific (B=.189, p<.05) disengagement coping strategies predicted a significant increase in depressive symptoms among foreign-born AAs.

IMPLICATIONS: The findings demonstrated that being perceived as perpetual foreigner is a significant enough stress that contribute to depressive symptoms among U.S.-born AAs, but not for foreign-born AAs. The results suggest that engagement coping strategies may not buffer the negative impact of racial discrimination, but employing disengagement coping strategies may significantly exacerbate the depressive symptoms among U.S.-born AAs. Future research need to take the nativity status into account when examining relationship between racial discrimination and depressive symptoms in this population.