Early Parenting Practices Linked to Resilience from Racial Trauma in Asian & Asian American Young Adults

Photo of Woman and Girl Talking While Lying on Bed
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world in 2020, anti-Asian sentiment and hate crimes rose at an alarming rate. Hyeouk Chris Hahm, PhD, professor and associate dean of research at Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) and an expert in Asian American health, knew that documenting and analyzing the impact of the increasingly hostile climate was critical to supporting Asian and Asian American young adults. She joined forces with Harvard Medical School’s Cindy Liu to launch the COVID-19 Adult Resilience Experiences Study (CARES) which amassed longitudinal data from more than 1,400 young adults. The data has led to numerous findings, including research published last year by Hahm and BUSSW professors Yoonsook Ha and Judith Scott that showed an increase in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in Asian American young adults.

Now, the CARES data has facilitated a new study focusing on the role of racial socialization and trauma. The researchers, including Hahm and Liu, investigated how racial discrimination and parental ethnic-racial socialization – preparation for bias, promotion of mistrust of other groups, and cultural socialization – is associated with racial trauma among Asian and Asian American young adults. They found that one factor in particular significantly predicted lower levels of trauma in young adulthood: preparation for bias in childhood.

Their findings highlight the importance of having parent-child conversations about racism starting at a young age, and using these discussions to model healthy and adaptive coping mechanisms. The researchers hypothesize that children who grow up with an awareness that others may be biased against them because of their race or ethnicity may be more likely to view racism as a structural, societal problem rather than internalizing racist beliefs about themselves.

The study, which will be published by the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, includes co-authors Emily Zhang of Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Sunah Hyun of Harvard Medical School, Tiffany Yip of Fordham University, along with Hahm and Liu.

Hyeouk Chris Hahm is an expert on Asian American health disparities and risk behaviors and is the founder of Asian American Women’s Actions in Resilience and Empowerment (AWARE). She has presented more than 200 talks locally, nationally and internationally; published over 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals; and been featured in media outlets including USA Today, NPR, The Economist, and The Boston Globe.

Learn More About Prof. Hahm’s Research