Strong ties to their ethnicity can reduce the negative effects of racism for some Asian Americans and intensify the negative effects of racism for others, according to a new report published by the American Psychological Association.
Using the first nationally representative sample of Asian adults in the Unites States, three researchers examined the impact of ethnic identity and mental health among various Asian American populations in an effort to find out whether strong racial ties protected them against the negative psychological effects of discrimination.
Asian American adults, ages 18-75 years old, were questioned about any negative feelings they may have had in the previous 30 days. Participants were also asked about their perceptions of racial and ethnic discrimination, how often they felt discriminated against because of their ethnicity and how close they felt their feelings were to others in the same ethnic group.
For participants born outside the United States, embracing their ethnic identity did not guard against the ill effects of discrimination on psychological wellness. However, for Asians born in the United States, ethnic attachment did affect whether discrimination made people feel more distressed.
“Among adults in their 40s, feeling strongly about their own background can counteract the negative effects of discrimination,” says Dr. Tiffany Yip, the report’s lead author and an assistant professor at Fordham University.
More analysis from the report, “Racial Discrimination and Psychological Distress: The Impact of Ethnic Identity and Age Among Immigrant and United States-Born Asian Adults,” showed that U.S.-born participants in their 30s and those above the age of 50 who described themselves as having strong ethnic identity had more mental distress from discrimination than those participants with a weaker ethnic attachment.
“This may be because people in their 40s, who are entering middle age, cope more effectively with stress and are better able to deal with emotional reactions to negative events such as racism,” Yip says.
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