The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Effects of Ethnicity and Acculturation Related Variables On the Relationship Between Depression and Perceived Discrimination Among Asian American Youth

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
So-Young Park, Doctoral Candidate, New York University, New York, NY
James J. Jaccard, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, New York University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose:Acculturation related variables, such as immigration status and language spoken in the home, and discrimination are risk factors for depression in ethnic minority youth.  Asians are one of the fastest growing racial minority groups in the United States, due, in part, to relatively higher levels of immigration.  Asian youth have elevated risks for depression.  There is little research on the causes and consequences of depression in Asian youth in the U.S.  The research has used small convenience samples and has yielded inconsistent results.  The goal of this study was to investigate the longitudinal dynamics surrounding depression and perceived discrimination for Asian American youth with a focus on understanding how immigration status, language spoken in the home, and perceived discrimination as measured during adolescence are associated with depression across three major developmental stages—adolescence, early young adulthood, and young adulthood.  Research questions included: 1) are there developmental links between depression across stages of development and discrimination during adolescence in Asian American youth?; and 2) do these effects vary by immigration status/language spoken in the home?

Methods:The data for this study come from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health (Add health).  Add Health is a school-based study with a sample of more than 20,000 adolescents in Grades 7 to 12.  The current study used a subsample of nationally representative Asian American and European American youth who completed interviews during adolescence (ages 12 to 17), six years after that, and again six years after that.  A total of 1,418 Asian Americans and 8,369 European Americans were analyzed. Constructs were measured by: 1) a 19-item Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale for depression; 2) immigration status and spoken language at home; and 3) adolescents’ perceived discrimination at school, such as whether students at school were characterized as being prejudiced and the extent to which teachers treat students fairly.  The study used multi-group structural equation modeling (SEM) for data analysis.  

 Results: The final model that best accommodated the data indicated that there was a link between perceived discrimination (teacher fairness towards students) and depression during adolescence whose effects extended into early young adulthood and young adulthood through the presence of autoregressive dynamics. In addition, there was a statistically significant path coefficient between judgments of prejudice in other students and depression during all three developmental periods.  All of these estimated effects maintained in the presence of a large number of covariates. Comparisons of the magnitude of effects across different groups (e.g., European Americans, U.S. born Asians, non-U.S. born Asians, Asians speaking primarily English in the home and Asians speaking non-English in the home) were explored, with several interesting differences noted.   

Implications: Findings of this study suggest that the effects of discrimination in Asian youth on depression during adolescence can persist across later developmental stages, including early young adulthood and young adulthood, some 12 years later. The results provide clarity on sources of health surrounding Asian Americans and illustrate the importance of disparities in mental health among Asian American youth.