Acculturation and psychological distress among first generation Asian Americans : the roles of acculturative stress and social-cultural resources

Jung, Sooin
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Most acculturation research has been focused on the direct relationship between acculturation and mental health (Yoon, Langrehr, & Ong, 2011; Salanta & Lauderdaleb, 2003; Koneru, Weisman de Mamania, Flynn, & Betancourt, 2007). However, less is known about the mechanisms for this relationship. Social-cultural resources such as friend and neighbor support may have a beneficial impact on mental health, and acculturative stress such as the level of family conflict and perceived racial discrimination would be expected to be risk factors (Kawachi & Berkman, 2001; Wolff & Agree, 2004; Gong et al., 2003; Kerr-Correa, Igami, Hiroce, & Tucchi, 2007). The present study investigated the mediating roles of acculturative stress and social-psychological resources in the relationship between acculturation and psychological distress among first generation Asian Americans. Data were from 1528 Asian Americans who participated in the National Latino and Asian Americans Study (NLAAS), a nationally representative study of the Asian immigrant population in the U.S. Using structural equation modeling with latent variables, direct and indirect influences on Asian immigrant psychological distress were examined. The findings indicate that higher acculturation was not directly associated with psychological distress for Asian immigrants, but there was an indirect pathway from higher acculturation to poorer mental health through acculturative stress. Asian immigrants with higher levels of acculturation experienced more acculturative stress, which contributed to more psychological distress symptoms. However, this finding was moderated by gender, holding only for women. On the other hand, while a higher level of acculturation was also associated with more perceived social resources, the expected protective effect of these resources was not present. The findings show the complex relationship between acculturation and psychological distress during the acculturative process of Asian immigrants.