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Testing the Moderating Effect of Parent-Adolescent Communication on the Acculturation Gap-Distress Relation in Korean American Families

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 40 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2011 Pages: 1661-1673
May Kim; Irene J.K. Park
Date Published
December 2011
13 pages
This study examined the acculturation gap and mental health of Asian-American children.
Although the acculturation gap generally has been associated with poor mental health outcomes among Asian-American children, some studies have failed to find a significant relationship between the gap and distress. Using two different methods of operationalizing the gap between mothers and their children, the current study addressed this tension in the literature by testing the following hypotheses in a sample of Korean American families. It was hypothesized that mother-adolescent discrepancies in acculturation and enculturation levels would be associated with youth internalizing and externalizing symptoms and that parent-adolescent communication would moderate the gap-distress relationship. Multi-informant questionnaires were administered to 77 Korean American mother-adolescent dyads from the Midwest. Surprisingly, results indicated that consonance in low levels of mother-adolescent enculturation was associated with the highest levels of externalizing symptoms (interaction term method). Adolescents' perception of communication with their fathers significantly moderated the relationship between the enculturation gap and internalizing symptoms, such that in dyads with a greater enculturation gap, less perceived open communication with fathers was associated with more internalizing symptoms (difference score method). Clinically, the findings indicate a potential target (i.e., parent-adolescent communication) for treatment programs that aim to improve family relations and youth adjustment in immigrant families. (Published Abstract)