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 Critical Ethnic Awareness and Social Support in the Discrimination-Depression Relationship Among Asian Americans

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 4:30 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 003A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Isok Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Purpose: Racial discrimination is known to affect Asian Americans and has been consistently associated with physical and mental disorders based on findings from regionally and nationally representative surveys. However, the literature is limited in examining different pathways in which racial discrimination is associated with depressive symptoms among Asian Americans. First, based on empowerment perspective, the concept of critical ethnic awareness is a nascent one that has not been examined in the discrimination literature. Asian Americans are often viewed and understood as acting in a middlemen role in a racially triangulated hierarchy, essentially buffering the whites from the blacks. Thus, assessing and understanding critical ethnic awareness and its association with the experience of racial discrimination may be important for Asian Americans. Second, while social support has been generally understood as a moderator in the stress-buffering model, the researchers had not examined what happens to the level of social support with the repeated experiences of racial discrimination.  This study used a path analysis to examine direct and indirect effects of critical ethnic awareness and social support on the relationship between racial discrimination and depressive symptoms.

Methods: Using a convenience sample from online survey of Asian American adults (N=405), this study tested two main study hypotheses: First, based on the empowerment theory, critical ethnic awareness would be positively associated with racial discrimination experience; and second, based on the social support deterioration model, social support would partially mediate the relationship between racial discrimination and depressive symptoms. General demographic characteristics were analyzed using Stata. Path analysis was performed using Mplus to explore the best model fit using various global fit indices, as well as to examine direct and indirect effects among the variables. To test for the significances of indirect effects, where distribution of product-of-coefficients estimates usually violates normality assumption, bootstrapped and Bias-corrected confident intervals were estimated using 5000 replicates.

Results: The result of path analysis model showed that the proposed path model was a good fit based on global fit indices (χ2 = 4.70, df=2, p=0.10; RMSEA = 0.06; CFI = 0.97; TLI = 0.92; SRMR = 0.03). The examinations of study hypotheses demonstrated that critical ethnic awareness was directly associated (b=.11, SE=.05, p<.05) with the racial discrimination experience, while social support had a significant indirect effect (b=.48, SE=.24; BCA 95% CI=0.02, 1.26) between the racial discrimination experience and depressive symptoms.

Implications: The proposed path model illustrated that both critical ethnic awareness and social support are important mechanisms for explaining the relationship between racial discrimination and depressive symptoms among this sample of Asian Americans. This study highlights the usefulness of the critical ethnic awareness concept as a way to better understand how Asian Americans might perceive and recognize racial discrimination experiences in relation to its mental health consequences.