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. 

ML-SAAF Study Project Summary

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.

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.