Asian Americans have historically been subjected to unfair treatment as "forever foreigners," a phenomenon of racial discrimination defined here as foreigner objectification (FO). Recent psychological research corroborates this narrative and suggests that FO is related to negative outcomes (Armenta, Lee, Pituc, Jung, Park, Soto et al., 2013; Q. L. Huynh, Devos, & Smalarz, 2011; S. Kim, Wang, Deng, Alvarez, & Li, 2011). The present study builds upon this nascent research by investigating the construct of foreigner objectification (FO) and its relationship with bicultural identity, psychological distress (depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and social interaction anxiety) and subjective well-being (self-esteem, satisfaction with life). The sample consists of 718 self-identified Asian American undergraduate students from multiple sites across the United States. The primary research question asked whether bicultural identity profiles (as indicated by the affirmation/commitment component of both ethnic-racial identity and national American identity) moderate the relationship between FO and psychological adjustment outcomes. Identity profiles were derived using person-centered cluster analytic methods, resulting in a solution of five profiles (Strong Bicultural, Average Bicultural, Weak Bicultural, Strong Ethnic, and Strong American). The moderation model was tested with multiple group structural equation modeling analysis and conducted separately for the U.S.-born and immigrant participants. For the immigrant sample (n = 253), the relations between FO and both psychological distress and subjective well-being were non-significant, and there was no difference in the FO-adjustment relationship between identity profiles. In line with Self-Categorization Theory (Turner, 1985), the results suggest that the potentially negative impact of FO is more relevant to U.S.-born Asian Americans than to their immigrant counterparts. For the U.S.-born sample (n = 465), a significant medium sized effect was found between FO and psychological distress in the expected direction, with no observed moderation by identity. FO was also significantly associated with poorer subjective well-being for the U.S.-born individuals in the Strong Bicultural, Average Bicultural, and Weak Bicultural profiles. This association was not statistically significant for those in the Strong Ethnic and Strong American profiles, indicating a moderating role of bicultural identity.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2013. Major:Psychology. Advisor: Richard M. Lee, PhD. 1 computer file (PDF); vii,150 pages, appendix A.
Foreigner objectification, bicultural identity, and psychological adjustment in Asian American college students.
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