The primary goal of this study is to examine the role of family cohesion and social support in the changes of depressive symptoms among Koreans in the United States. Immigration requires changes in the lifestyle and behaviors of individuals. While adjusting to a new environment, Korean immigrants undergo multiple changes that may increase their vulnerability to psychopathology such as depression. Previous findings identified relevant variables affecting the changes in depressive symptoms among this immigrant group. However, little is known about the impacts of family cohesion and social support on depressive symptoms among Korean immigrants. The following question guided this study: What is the relative importance of family cohesion, social support, and the differences in individual characteristics on depressive symptoms?
This cross-sectional study employed a non-probability sampling procedure. The participants were adult Korean immigrants who immigrated to the United States at the age of 18 or older. In addition to individual characteristics, the data collection procedure involved a self-administered anonymous survey consisting of three standardized Korean language instruments. Data collected from 242 voluntary participants were analyzed using hierarchical multiple regression (R2).
The hierarchical multiple regression (R2) analyses demonstrated that individual characteristics, economic stress, self-esteem, and social support explained 21% of the variance in depressive symptoms (F (10, 212) = 5.72; p <.001). The incremental change for each of the three blocks was statistically significant. When variables related to individual characteristics were assessed separately from family cohesion and social support, living with spouse explained 1.96% of the variance in depressive symptoms. However, when family cohesion was added in the second block, living with spouse no longer played a significant role in predicting the depressive symptoms. Instead, family cohesion was found to be significant (7.29%) in explaining the changes in depressive symptoms. Finally, in the third block, when social support was added, family cohesion (4.84%) remained to be significant in explaining the depressive symptoms. In addition, the newer variable, social support was found to be the strongest predictor (8.41%) in the changes in the depressive symptoms.
Conclusions and Implications:
This study addresses a number of cross-cultural practice and research implications. The findings suggest the significant positive role that family cohesion and social support plays in predicting depressive symptoms among Korean immigrants. Koreans immigrants tend to adhere to the cultural norm of prefacing strong family ties. For them, family is where they find love, intimacy, and a sense of togetherness. The harmonious relationship among family members and the sense of devotion to one another reinforces the ability of Korean immigrants to find opportunities for a better life while overcoming challenges associated with their immigration experiences. Also, their ethnic community can be a source of social support for Korean immigrants. The ethnic solidarity and affinity among Korean immigrants can enhance the subjective well-being of individual Korean immigrants. Such experiences can positively affect the mental health of Korean immigrants. Future studies should identify factors affecting changes in the level of family cohesion and social support among Koreans in the United States.