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The role of parental expectations and self-beliefs on academic stress and depression among Asian American undergraduates

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Despite high levels of academic achievement as a group (Ryan & Bauman, 2016), Asian American students face many challenges, including academic stress (Flatt, 2013; Liu, 2002) and depression (Aczon-Armstrong, Inouye,

Despite high levels of academic achievement as a group (Ryan & Bauman, 2016), Asian American students face many challenges, including academic stress (Flatt, 2013; Liu, 2002) and depression (Aczon-Armstrong, Inouye, & Reyes-Salvail, 2013; Wang & Sheikh-Khalil, 2014). The purpose of this study was to examine self-beliefs (academic self-efficacy and independent self-construal) and family and cultural variables (perceived parental expectations for academic achievement and internalization of the model minority myth) that may affect the academic stress and depression experienced by Asian American undergraduates.

A national sample of 314 participants (221 female, 89 male, 4 nonbinary) who self-identified as Asian American undergraduates were recruited online and through word of mouth. They completed assessments of six constructs: Academic self-efficacy, independent self-construal, perceived parental expectations for academic achievement, internalization of the model minority myth, academic stress, and depression.

Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that of the two self-beliefs, only academic self-efficacy was a predictor of academic stress and depression. The greater the students’ academic self-efficacy, the less academic stress and depression they reported. Independent self-construal was not a significant predictor. Additionally, perceived parental expectations for academic achievement also predicted academic stress and depression. The more students perceived that their parents had high expectations for their academic achievement, the more they experienced academic stress and depression. The cultural variable, internalization of the model minority myth, was not a predictor of academic stress or depression. A moderated hierarchical regression examining whether academic self-efficacy and independent self-construal moderated the relation between perceived parental expectations for academic achievement and academic stress and depression revealed no moderation effects.

The importance of academic self-efficacy is discussed in the context of cognitive theory that posits that thoughts and beliefs affect behaviors and emotions. In addition, cognitive theory is used to explain perceived parental expectations for academic achievement, as these are perceptions and beliefs about others, as related to one’s self. That the internalization of the model minority myth was not related to depression and academic stress is discussed. Limitations and clinical implications for working with Asian Americans with academic stress and depression are also discussed.

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  • 2019