Methods: Data are from the Midwest Longitudinal Study of Asian American Families project, a three-way longitudinal survey of Filipino American (FA) and Korean American (KA) families, collected in 2014 from 378 FA and 408 KA youth. Retention rates were 77% at Wave 2 in 2016 (N=604) and 82% of Wave 1 at Wave 3 in 2018 (N=641). Stepwise mixed-effects regression models examined the impact of (1) the three predispositions and an array of environmental variables on antisocial behaviors (minor assault, felony assault, and delinquency) and mental distress (depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts). The environmental variables include familial context (parental acceptance and parent-child conflict), peers (peer relations), and socio-political climate (racial discrimination) and (2) two-way interactions between predispositions and each environmental factor.
Results: Daring and negative emotionality predicted more antisocial behaviors for both ethnic groups. Prosociality predicted fewer rates of felony assault among FA youth and fewer reports of delinquency among KA youth. Negative emotionality predicted more mental distress for both ethnic groups. Daring predicted fewer depressive symptoms among KA youth. The two-way interaction models showed that the negative effect of negative emotionality on depressive symptoms was intensified by environmental risk factors such as parent-child conflict and racial discrimination (only among KA youth), but alleviated by protective factors such as parental acceptance and positive peer relationships. We also found that the harmful effect of negative emotionality on minor assault was exacerbated by positive peer relations among KA youth.
Conclusions/Implications: The study demonstrates that environmental risks vs. protection can moderate the impact of predisposition, e.g., negative emotionality, demonstrating that even though predispositions may not be malleable, environments can alter their effects. In particular, we found that positive peer relationships may serve as a protective factor for mental health, but as a risk factor for minor assault in the relations between negative emotionality and youth outcomes. This is a novel finding that illustrates a varying function of peer relations on distinct dimensions of youth problems. These findings provide the points of interventions to reduce AA youth externalizing and internalizing problems.