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Why Asian Americans?

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*Graphics from Pew Research Center, "Key facts about Asian Americans, a diverse and growing population," April 29, 2021

To the left. *Graphics from Pew Research Center, "Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S.," April 9, 2021

Asians Americans are the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S. Yet, there is a dearth of research on Asian Americans. In particular, little is known about Asian American families and parenting styles beyond the infamous "Tiger Mother" and Model Minority myths. The MLSAAF seeks to answer important questions raised by these myths, such as:


  • Why do Asian American youth perform better in some areas but not others?

  • Do positive external behaviors come at the price of mental health?

  • Why are positive external behaviors not sustained over time?

  • Why does emotional vulnerability increase during the transition to adulthood?

  • Why do different Asian subgroups, despite sharing a common overarching Asian culture, have disparate youth outcomes?



Filipino- and Korean American families are among two of the largest Asian American subgroups. However, they remain underrepresented in sociological studies. Further, Filipino- and Korean American families have interesting similarities and differences that may inform youth outcomes. For example, both groups tend to be middle class, and parents from both groups tend to be highly educated. Parents from both groups also tend to strongly value tradition, familial loyalty, and respect for elders. On the other hand, the two groups show different rates of cultural assimilation. Filipino American parents are mostly English speaking while Korean parents are mostly Korean speaking. The MLSAAF investigates these similarities and differences and see how they relate to parenting and youth development. 

From Pew Research Center, "Demographics of Asians," April 4, 2013 at

MLSAAF Study Project Summary

The term “model minority” has been applied to Asian Americans since 1966, when popular publications such as U.S. News and World Report and the New York Times used Asian Americans as a counterexample of success despite societal prejudice. Since then, research has shown that Asian Americans – and Asian American youth, in particular – exhibit a uniquely mixed pattern of behaviors. Though they report better academic performance and fewer externalized problems such as substance abuse and issues with violence, Asian American youth also report greater rates of internalized problems, such as depression and suicide, than youth of other racial-ethnic groups. The risk of internalized problems increase for Asian American youth in emerging adulthood, when poor mental health is exacerbated and the suicide rate rises, especially among young Asian American women. In addition, it is difficult to make a blanket statement about Asian American youth; mental health and socioeconomic outcomes vary by Asian American subgroups. 

The existing family-process model, derived mainly from Western conceptualization, does not capture culture-specific aspects of parenting Asian American youth. As a result, our current knowledge of parent-child relations and their affect on Asian American youth development is seriously limited. This study responds to the urgent need for reliable longitudinal data on Asian American youth, the fastest growing but one of the most understudied and misunderstood populations in the United States. This study aims to formulate a culturally adequate family-process model that incorporates acculturation in family process to accurately explain the complex outcome patterns of Asian American youth.  

This study will collect annual longitudinal data from 450 Filipino American youth, 450 Filipino American parents, 450 Korean American youth, and 450 Korean American parents, using interviews and self-administered surveys. Survey questions will follow parental beliefs, parental behaviors, parent-child relations, and youth academic achievements, mental states, and behaviors, and acculturation over the course of four years. The aims of this study are to a) examine how the parent-child dynamic correlates to youth academic, mental health, and behavioral outcomes; b) follow how the parent-child dynamic affects youth development from adolescence through young adulthood; and c) identify the influence of acculturation on both the family process and the youth outcomes. The results of this study will help Asian American parents strengthen those aspects of their parenting that produce and maintain positive youth behaviors, while modifying those aspects that increase the risk of maladaptive behaviors among youth. The parenting methods identified by this study to help maximize a child’s healthy development may also be helpful to parents in other racial-ethnic groups.

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