Disentangling universal and cultural-specific risks to mental health among Asian Americans: A multi-site longitudinal investigation
Objective: Development-based intergenerational conflict related to separation-individuation is normative and similar across ethnocultural groups. Intergenerational cultural conflict related to acculturation mismatch—where intercultural contact leads parents and offspring to diverge in heritage and mainstream American values and behaviors—is specific to immigrant families. Although development-based conflict does not result in serious psychological distress or behavioral problems among healthy adolescents and emerging adults, acculturation-based conflict has been linked to maladjustment among offspring with immigrant parents in cross-sectional studies. The distinct and potentially mutually influential contributions of these types of conflict have not been evaluated as simultaneous processes unfolding during the developmentally significant transition to college. Method: A three-wave longitudinal panel design study examined the trajectories and impact of both development- and acculturation-based intergenerational conflicts on Asian Americans’ (N=619, 55.44% women, Mage=17.98) internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Participants reported their own and parents’ acculturation strategies, intergenerational conflicts, personality, and mental health outcomes, at three equally spaced occasions during their first six months of college. Results: Latent growth curve modeling and longitudinal SEM indicated that development-based conflict remained stable over time and was unrelated to internalizing symptoms; however, greater conflict predicted higher externalizing symptom levels. Acculturation-based conflict decreased across measurement occasions, and specific dimensions and domains of underlying parent-offspring mismatch prospectively predicted internalizing problems. Internalizing symptoms also contributed to subsequent intergenerational cultural conflict. Conclusions: Developmental and culture-specific family issues both contribute to mental health among Asian American emerging adults, though via different pathways, with distinct implications for internalizing and externalizing symptoms.
Rollock, Purdue University.
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