Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Revisiting and Extending the Role of Religious Coping in the Racism-Mental Health Relation among Christian, Asian American Students

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Revisiting and Extending the Role of Religious Coping in the Racism-Mental Health Relation among Christian, Asian American Students

Article excerpt

Despite the prevalent belief to the contrary, Asian Americans are susceptible to experiencing contemporary forms of racism and their deleterious influence on mental health. The present study is an empirical investigation of Asian Americans' experience of racism, its association with mental health, the different religious coping strategies that might be utilized, and the mediating roles of religious coping in a sample of Christian Asian American college students. The current study revisits and extends a prior study (P. Y. Kim, Kendall, & Webb, 2015) by using a more nuanced conceptualization and assessment of religious coping, examining religious coping as a mediator instead of a moderator, and examining mental health outcomes multidimensionally (anxiety, depression, and well-being). Results indicated that Asian American participants tended to rely on certain types of religious coping over others, and that some highly endorsed religious coping strategies had a deleterious effect on mental health (e.g., positively associated with racism and distress symptoms), whereas other endorsed strategies had a facilitative role on mental health (e.g., positively associated with racism, but inversely associated with psychological distress). The findings point to the complex roles religious coping might play in the association between racism and the mental health of Asian American college students.

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Michael Luo, an Asian American reporter for The New York Times, wrote about a recent incident in which a woman yelled in public at his family to, "Go back to China!" and later, after he confronted her, for him to, "Go back to your f--ing country" (Luo, 2016). This incident illustrates the reality of everyday racism that Asian Americans experience, one that stands in stark contrast to the popular perception that Asian Americans do not experience racism and are not adversely impacted by it (read: the model minority stereotype; see Yoo, Burrola, & Steger, 2010). The present study is an empirical investigation of (a) the association between contemporary racism and psychological health of Asian Americans, (b) utilization of various religious coping strategies to deal with racism, and (c) how religious coping may help explain the racism-mental health empirical association.

Racism and Mental Health

Experience of contemporary racism by Asian Americans has been linked to increased distress (Cheng, Lin, & Cha, 2015; Gee, Spencer, Chen, Yip, & Takeuchi, 2007; Hwang & Goto, 2009; Liu & Suyemoto, 2016) and decreased wellness (P. Y. Kim, 2016; P. Y. Kim, Kendall, & Cheon, 2016; Yoo & Lee, 2005). Given these consistent empirical findings, it is reasonable to conclude that the experiences of racial discrimination among Asian Americans can lead to adverse psychological consequences. Thus, based on accumulated empirical evidence for the deleterious effects of racism on mental health, one prediction in the present study is that the perception of racism will be associated with lowered well-being and heightened psychological distress among Asian Americans.

Extending a Study: P. Y. Kim et al. (2015)

In recognition of the complexities yet to be fully identified in the racism-mental health association, it is important for researchers to examine various moderators and mediators. Such endeavors not only add a nuanced understanding of the mechanisms that might be involved in the racism-mental health association, but they also provide novel ways to deliver interventions (see Frazier, Tix, & Barron, 2004). Based on this rationale, P. Y. Kim et al. (2015) recently examined the moderating roles of positive religious coping (religious coping based on a "secure relationship with whatever the individual may hold sacred;" Pargament, Feuille, & Burdzy, 2011, p. 54) and negative religious coping (religious coping that involves "tension, conflict, and struggle with the sacred"; Pargament et al. …

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