Methods: The data came from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health (Add Health). Add Health is a school-based, nationally representative study with a sample of more than 20,000 adolescents in Grades 7 to 12. The current study used a sub-sample of AAs who completed interviews during adolescence, young adulthood aged 18 to 26, and adulthood aged 24 to 32. A total of 689 AAs who participated in all three interviews were analyzed. Constructs were measured by: (1) two items of adolescents’ perceived prejudice from their peers and teachers at school; (2) four items on students’ general feelings of school connectedness; and (3) a short version of the CES-D scale for depressive symptoms. Nativity (the U.S. born or Foreign-born) and primary language spoken at home (English or Other language) were used to define the following four AA subgroups: (1) U.S. born and English language AAs; (2) U.S. born and other language AAs; (3) Foreign-born and English language AAs, and (4) Foreign-born and other language AAs. For major data analyses, the study used Multigroup Structural Equation Modeling (MGSEM).
Results: Preliminary tests were conducted to determine whether four AA subgroups could be combined due to trivial differences in the SEM model, and U.S. born and English language AAs showed some meaningful differences in path coefficients and means from the other AA subgroups. Thus, two AA groups were used in the MGSEM analyses, namely (more acculturated) AAs born in the U.S. and who spoke English at home and (less acculturated) all other AAs. A good model fit for the global fit indices for the proposed model among Asian American youth was observed (χ2(6)=5.752, p>0.05; RMSEA <0.001; CFI=1.000; SRMR= 0.015), and the focused fit indices were good. MGSEM results indicated that the major path coefficients from school contexts to depressive symptoms at three-time points for both AA groups were statistically significant. In addition, there was one statistically significant path coefficient difference between the two AA subgroups: the path linking adolescents’ perceived prejudice from teachers to school connectedness (path coefficients = -0.296 and -0.143, respectively; CR = 0.152, p<0.05).
Implications: Findings of this study suggest that school contexts during adolescence are associated with depressive symptoms across time, and these effects can vary as a function of nativity and primary language among AAs. The results emphasize the importance of identifying school contextual risk factors leading to mental health disparities and developing culturally specific intervention strategies for AAs.