College Park, Md.—A University of Maryland researcher received a grant to develop an intervention for parents of Asian American adolescents who are struggling with mental health issues or bullying from peers. The early career research award from the Society for the Study of School Psychology will support the development of a parental training program that targets specific cultural barriers to engaging Asian American youth and families in mental health services.
“Asian American adolescents, especially those from immigrant families, report more victimization and discrimination, internalizing of symptoms, and suicidal thoughts and behavior compared with their white peers,” said University of Maryland College of Education Assistant Professor Cixin Wang. “And yet, Asian American adolescents underutilize school and community-based mental health services relative to white peers.”
With the $20,000, one-year award, Dr. Wang will develop and evaluate a culturally-responsive intervention that helps parents address both peer victimization and depression in Asian American adolescents.
To evaluate the intervention, 50 Asian immigrants who experience difficulties with parenting or adolescent behavior problems will receive the parenting intervention, and complete surveys on parenting and youth outcomes. The study will be the first to evaluate the effectiveness of an Asian American-specific parenting program that addresses mental health and peer victimization in adolescents.
“Parent training programs have been found to be effective in preventing and reducing youth depression by targeting family dynamics that increase the risk of depression, but these interventions have mainly been tested on white families,” Dr. Wang said.
There are a number of factors that may contribute to the need for mental health services and bullying prevention for Asian American adolescents, as well as the low rates for help seeking for mental health services. Risk factors and barriers include:
- Asian American parents report lower levels of engagement in school compared with white parents and may be skeptical of school-based mental health services.
- As close to 90 percent of Asian American adolescents have at least one parent who is foreign-born, according to the 2001 U.S. Census, a lack of familiarity with the U.S. school system may contribute to less school involvement. As a result, Asian immigrant parents are less likely to advocate for their children who experience peer victimization in schools.
- Stigma amongst Asian Americans regarding seeking mental health services.
- Parenting practices such as harsh discipline and high expectations, as well as parenting stress, may contribute to mental health difficulties in youth.
Dr. Wang — who is in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education — focuses her research on bullying and bullying prevention, school-based mental health services and prevention of mental health problems, mental health literacy, help seeking among culturally and linguistically diverse students, parenting practice and family involvement.