Asian Americans represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the population in the United States. However, few studies have looked at the quality of life (QL) of Asian American youth in comparison to that of white, Hispanic, and African-American youth. In a recent study, Chris Fradkin of the Health Sciences Research Institute and the Center of Excellence on Health Disparities at the University of California examined how social, physical, and psychological health varied among different ethnic groups prior to the transition from elementary school to middle school.
Fradkin chose to examine this period because it represents a critical developmental time in young peoples’ lives. Social, family, and academic structures shift as children leave elementary school and enter middle school. Expectations are raised, peer pressures increase, and social circles are widened, resulting in a period of adaptation and assimilation. For his study, Fradkin looked at how socioeconomic status (SES) affected QL, family, and school functioning in a sample of nearly 5,000 children from various ethnic backgrounds.
The results revealed that the Asian American youth fared better than the African-American and Hispanic youth on several measures of QL, but only if they had a better SES. When compared to white youth, the Asian American children fared worse on three measures of QL, including self-worth, physical QL, and well-being. This variance remained constant regardless of the level of SES. This was surprising because some research suggests that Asian American youth have physical QL advantages over white youth. Also, Fradkin expected that the Asian American participants would have lower levels of social and emotional well-being compared to white youth, but this was not the case.
“This study demonstrates that there are substantial racial/ethnic disparities in youth’s QL,” Fradkin said. He hopes these findings prompt future studies to explore other factors that contribute to well-being in youth. Specifically, Fradkin hopes subsequent research looks at the child-parent relationship in Asian American youth. Prior research has suggested that parental pressure may increase levels of depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem in Asian American children. Researchers should examine how these deficits impact overall QL as these young people make the transition from elementary to middle school and beyond.
Fradkin, C., Wallander, J. L., Yamakawa, Y., Schwebel, D. C., Chien, A., Le, Y.-C. L., Li, D. H., Elliott, M., & Schuster, M. (2012). Quality of life among Asian American youth. Asian American Journal of Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029822
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