Methods: The data for this study came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add health). The current study used three waves (Waves I, III, and IV) of the Add Health data with a subsample of nationally representative Asian American who completed interviews during adolescence, early young adulthood, and young adulthood. Weighted estimates were used and a total of 736 Asian American youth were analyzed. Constructs were measured by: 1) a short version of 9-item CES-D scale for depressive symptoms; 2) three items on students’ general feelings of school connectedness; and 3) 2 items on adolescents’ perceived prejudice at school, such as whether students at school were prejudiced and the extent to which teachers treated students fairly. Teachers’ fairness item was reverse coded. The study used multi-group structural equation modeling (MGSEM) for data analyses.
Results: A good model fit for the global fit indices for the proposed model was observed (χ2(df=12)=22.065, p<.05; RMSEA = .048; CFI=.951 ; SRMR= 0.028; 90% CI [.012, .079]) and the focused fit indices also were good. There were three statistically significant path coefficient differences between AA1 and AA2: the path linking from perceived prejudice in students to school connectedness (path coefficients= -.20 and -.05, path difference CR=.15, p<.05), the path linking from perceived prejudice in teachers to school connectedness (path coefficients= -.37 and -.13, path difference CR=.24, p<.01), and the path linking from perceived prejudice in teachers to depressive symptoms during adolescence (path coefficients= .08 and -.002, path difference CR= .08, p<.05).
Conclusions and Implications: This study implies that perceived prejudice at school can negatively affect school connectedness and depressive symptoms among Asian American youth and that AA1 group was more likely to be at risk for school environment than AA2 group. Early depression contributes to an elevated risk of later depression for both Asian American groups but there were no group differences in these relationships. These results emphasize the importance of identifying school-related risk factors in order to better understand mental health disparities in Asian American youth.