Difficulties and Coping Strategies of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Immigrant Students

Article excerpt

In 1999, there were approximately 10.9 million Asians in the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000), and it is expected that Asians will number 20 million by the year 2020 (Ong & Hee, 1993). In terms of specific ethnic groups, 24% are Chinese, 12% are Japanese, and 11% are Korean, representing almost half of the total Asian population in the United States (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1993). Additionally, 66% of Asians in the United States were born in another country (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1993). Hence, it is assumed that a large number of Asian immigrants are youth who are attending schools throughout the U.S.

Although researchers contend that immigrant youth demonstrate distinctive psychological problems and require emotional support (Chiu & Ring, 1998; James, 1997), they rarely utilize mental health services (James, 1997). Munroe-Blum, Boyle, Offord, and Kates (1989) report that immigrant children utilize mental health services considerably less often than do nonimmigrant children. Researchers believe that lack of culturally sensitive mental health services partially contributes to these underutilization patterns (James, 1997; Sue & Sue, 1999).

Since research has demonstrated that coping strategies differ across cultures (Cross, 1995; Olah, 1995; Yeh & Wang, 2000), it can be assumed that immigrant youth would utilize coping strategies that differ from those used by nonimmigrant students. Moreover, immigrant youth are more likely to experience psychological problems such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and loneliness (James, 1997). Hence, it is essential to identify the difficulties individuals experience when they come to the United States, and the coping strategies they would use, in order to develop culturally relevant services for immigrant youth. Considering the fact that a large number of Asian immigrants reside in the United States, it is imperative for school counselors to recognize their diverse psychological problems and indigenous coping strategies.

There is little information regarding Asian immigrants, especially school-aged youth (Chiu & Ring, 1998; Florsheim, 1997). A possible explanation for the dearth of research is a "model minority" myth, which leads researchers to overlook the psychological problems of Asian immigrant youth (Chiu & Ring, 1998; Florsheim, 1997). Consequently, practitioners may fail to provide effective interventions to Asian immigrant students, assuming that they are well-adjusted. In fact, many Asian immigrant youth exhibit major adaptive problems such as school drop out, juvenile delinquency, and gang involvement (Chiu & Ring, 1998; Lee & Zhan, 1998; Sue, Sue, Sue, & Takeuchi, 1995).

In spite of such problems, Asian immigrants tend to be reluctant to utilize mental health services (Atkinson, Lowe, & Matthews, 1995; Uba, 1994). There are several reasons for this. First, they may be unfamiliar with the concept of mental health services (Sue & Sue, 1999). Moreover, for many Asian cultural groups, revealing personal concerns to others can cause shame for the whole family (Sue, 1994). Thus, discussing personal problems with others may be deemed culturally stigmatizing.

The concept of culture shock (Oberg, 1960) refers to feelings of anxiety people experience when they are unable to utilize problem-solving strategies they had employed in the past. Culture shock triggers strain and feelings of discomfort, and can result in psychological maladjustment (James, 1997). Immigrant youth may experience extreme culture shock as they encounter unfamiliar values, behaviors, and norms (Lynch, 1992). They also may experience a sense of loss as a result of having left their country of origin, community, and social system (James, 1997). As a result, they may become frustrated, irritated, depressed, withdrawn, and lethargic (Lynch, 1992). …