skip to main content

Title: Parental identity and socialization mediate parental racial discrimination's impact on child adjustment
Abstract Objective

The study explored the mediating role of Chinese American parents' ethnic–racial identity (ERI) in linking their discrimination experiences, ethnic–racial socialization (ERS), and their children's mental health, testing whether neighborhood racial diversity and perceived Chinese density moderated these mediation paths.


During COVID‐19, Chinese American families faced increased discrimination, impacting their mental well‐being. However, few studies have examined how parents' discrimination experiences influence their ERI, ERS practice, and ultimately their children's mental health difficulties.


Data from 294 Chinese immigrant parents (Mage = 44.28, 79% female) were collected in two waves, 2020 and 2021. Path analysis tested if parental discrimination affects their ERI and ERS, and children's mental health. Multigroup analysis assessed if mediation models varied for families living in communities with low versus high racial diversity or Chinese density.


Parental racism‐related stress at T1 had significant indirect effects on parental ERS practices (higher use of maintenance of heritage culture and lower use of avoidance of outgroups practice) at T2 via parental ERI (greater private regard) at T2. Parental racial discrimination (perceived sinophobia in the media and racism‐related stress) at T1 had significant indirect effects on children's mental health difficulties at T2 via parental ERS practices (use of maintenance of heritage culture and avoidance of outgroups practices) at T2. The neighborhood racial diversity moderated the mediation model.


These findings advance the understanding of both individual (i.e., parental ERI) and contextual factors (i.e., neighborhood racial diversity) in the complex associations between parents' discrimination experiences and children's mental health difficulties.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Marriage and Family
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. OBJECTIVES: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has fueled xenophobia against Chinese Americans. We examined the rates of 6 types of COVID-19 racism and racial discrimination experienced by Chinese American parents and youth and the associations with their mental health. METHODS: We recruited a population-based sample of Chinese American families to participate in this self-reported survey study conducted from March 14, 2020, to May 31, 2020. Eligible parent participants identified as ethnically/racially Chinese, lived in the United States, and had a 4- to 18-year-old child; their eligible children were 10 to 18 years old. RESULTS: The sample included 543 Chinese American parents (mean [SD] age, 43.44 [6.47] years; 425 mothers [78.3%]), and their children (N = 230; mean [SD] age, 13.83 [2.53] years; 111 girls [48.3%]). Nearly half of parents and youth reported being directly targeted by COVID-19 racial discrimination online (parents: 172 [31.7%]; youth: 105 [45.7%]) and/or in person (parents: 276 [50.9%]; youth: 115 [50.2%]). A total of 417 (76.8%) parents and 176 (76.5%) youth reported at least 1 incident of COVID-19 vicarious racial discrimination online and/or in person (parents: 481 [88.5%]; youth: 211 [91.9%]). A total of 267 (49.1%) parents and 164 (71.1%) youth perceived health-related Sinophobia in America, and 274 (50.4%) parents and 129 (56.0%) youth perceived media-perpetuated Sinophobia. Higher levels of parent- and youth-perceived racism and racial discrimination were associated with their poorer mental health. CONCLUSIONS: Health care professionals must attend to the racism-related experiences and mental health needs of Chinese Americans parents and their children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via education and making appropriate mental health referrals. 
    more » « less
  2. Experiences of racial discrimination have been found to be associated with internalizing problems among ethnic–racial minority youth. However, mediating and moderating processes that might explain this association is less well understood. Thus, the present study aimed to examine whether Chinese American adolescents’ bicultural identity integration harmony (BII-Harmony) mediated the association between their experiences of racial discrimination and internalizing behaviors. Furthermore, we examined the moderating role of their parents’ BII-Harmony in this mediation model. Chinese American adolescents ( Mage= 13.9 years; SD = 2.3; 48% female) reported their experiences of racial discrimination and BII-Harmony, and their parents ( Mage= 46.2 years; SD = 5.2; 81% mothers) reported their BII-Harmony and their children’s internalizing difficulties. Chinese American adolescents’ racial discrimination experiences were negatively associated with BII-Harmony, and in turn, more internalizing problems, but only when their parents also reported low and mean levels of BII-Harmony.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Using a three‐wave longitudinal sample of 108 Chinese American parent‐adolescent dyads (Mparent‐ageW1 = 45.44 years, 17% fathers;Madolescent‐ageW1 = 13.34 years, 50% boys), this study examined the effects of parents' COVID‐19‐related racial discrimination experiences on adolescents' ethnic identity exploration and anxiety as mediated by parents' awareness of discrimination (AOD) socialization and moderated by parents' anxiety and racial socialization competency (RSC). Parents' racial discrimination experiences in 2020 predicted adolescents' greater ethnic identity explorationorgreater anxiety in 2022 via parents' greater use of AOD in 2021, depending on the levels of parents' anxiety and RSC. These findings highlighted individual and contextual factors impacting racial socialization processes in Chinese American families.

    more » « less
  4. Family ethnic socialization (FES) is a critical component of youth ethnic-racial identity (ERI) development. However, little research has focused on FES experiences amongst White families. The current study applied a convergent mixed methods design to investigate how immigration generational status (i.e., number of U.S.-born parents and grandparents) was associated with FES within White American families and the extent to which that informed adolescents’ ERI development. Utilizing survey data for White adolescents’ ( N = 532) self-reported FES experiences and ERI exploration and resolution, quantitative path analyses testing for mediation indicated that, as adolescents reported more family members born in the U.S., their FES experiences were lower and, in turn, their ERI exploration and resolution were also lower. FES fully mediated the relation between generational status and their ERI exploration and resolution. A theoretical thematic analysis of focus group data from a subsample of participants offered insights into how White adolescents described their FES experiences, illustrating the integral role of parents and grandparents for learning about their ethnic heritage, school’s role in facilitating FES, and various methods of maintaining familial collective cultural memory. The current study offers preliminary insights into FES among White families and identifies new questions for exploration future research.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Ethnic–racial discrimination, the differential treatment of individuals based on ethnic or racial group membership, predicts poor mental health outcomes such as anxiety. This is supported by long-standing theories on the social determinants of health and minority stress. However, these theories are rarely expanded to neurobiological sciences, limiting our understanding of mechanisms underlying observed associations. One potential neurobiological pathway between ethnic–racial discrimination exposure and anxiety is that ongoing exposure to racially charged encounters presents imminent threats that may modify stress-sensitive neurocircuitry, like the amygdala.

    The current study evaluated whether amygdala volume mediated associations between ethnic–racial discrimination exposure and anxiety symptoms in Latina girls, a group exhibiting heightened levels of untreated anxiety and disproportionately subjected to ethnic–racial discrimination.

    Thirty predominantly Mexican-identifying Latina girls residing in Southern California (MAge = 9.76,SD = 1.11 years) completed a T1-weighted structural MRI scan. Using thePerceptions of Racism in Children and Youth, participants self-reported the prevalence and severity of various discriminatory experiences. Participants also self-reported their anxiety symptoms via theScreen for Child Anxiety and Related Emotional Disorders.Controlling for total intracranial volume and annual household income, an indirect effect of ethnic–racial discrimination on anxiety symptoms via left amygdala volume was observed,β = −0.28,SE = 0.17, BC 95% CI [−0.690, −0.017]. The current findings suggest that the left amygdala is sensitive to racialized threats in childhood and that stress-related alterations may, in part, contribute to elevated anxiety in Latina girls. Our data elucidate a potential mechanism by which this form of sociocultural stress can adversely impact mental health, particularly in the transition from middle childhood to early adolescence, a period marked by a host of interlinked neurophysiological and social changes.

    more » « less