Methods: The National Latino and Asian American Study 2002-2003 (NLAAS), a nationally representative dataset, was utilized to examine the associations between acculturative stress, social support, and psychological distress. We used a subsample that includes foreign-born Asian immigrants at the age of 18 or older (N = 1379). Acculturative stress was measured by using the scales that assessed respondents' perceived stress by experiencing three categories: racial discrimination, legal status, and language barrier. Social support was measured by asking respondents' social networks with family and friends. Covariates include demographic factors (e.g., age, gender) and immigration-related variables (e.g., age at the immigration, language proficiency). The analyses were carried out through descriptive statistics, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and structural equation model (SEM).
Results : The structural model with all variables included was in a satisfactory fit (χ2 =186.21, p < .001, CFI = .96, IFI= .96, TLI = .95, RMSEA = .06). The results of full structural model indicated that acculturative stress caused by racial discrimination (B= 0.13, p <.001) and language barriers (B =.05, p <.001) were positively associated with increased level of psychological distress. Acculturative stress caused by legal status was positively associated with social support from family (B= 0.10, p <.001) and friends (B = 0.20, p <.001), while the stress caused by language barriers was negatively related to social support from family (B= -0.16, p <.001) and friends (B= -0.23, p <.001). Social support from family (B=0.01, CI: [0.01, 0.02]) and friends (B = 0.01, CI: [.00, .011]) mediated the relationship between the acculturative stress caused by language barriers and psychological distress.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings illustrate different roles of acculturative stressors and social support types in explaining psychological distress among Asian immigrants. There is a need to provide interventions that can reduce acculturative stress and facilitate socio-cultural networks for Asian immigrants, particularly for those who newly arrived in the U.S. and experience language barriers. Different intervention strategies focused on social networks to help Asian Americans cope with stress and promote positive mental health will be discussed.