2012. Vol.3, No.1, 78-81
Published Online January 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2012.31013
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Ethnic-Racial Socialization Has an Indirect Effect on
Self-Esteem for Asian American Emerging Adults
Carrie M. Brown1, Wells Ling2
1Department of Psychology, Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Georgia, USA
2Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Received September 30th, 2011; revised November 21st, 2011; accepted December 22nd, 2012
Although there has been recognition of the importance of examining the indirect effect of perceived pa-
rental ethnic-racial socialization on youths’ psychosocial outcomes, few studies have done so. To date,
Tran and Lee’s (2010) study is one of few that has linked ethnic-racial socialization to psychosocial out-
comes among Asian Americans, specifically. The purpose of this study was to extend Tran and Lee’s
(2010) research in two ways. First, the present study tested a model similar to Tran and Lee’s but replaced
their dependent variable, social competence, with self-esteem. Second, the present study tested the model
among Asian American emerging adults (i.e., ages 18 to 25), not late adolescents. The present study hy-
pothesized that perceiving more frequent messages of cultural socialization-pluralism from parents would
indirectly lead to higher self-esteem via stronger ethnic identity. One-hundred-fourteen self-identified
Asian Americans (M age = 21.34 years; 66% female) completed an online survey that included measures
of perceived cultural socialization-pluralism, ethnic identity, and self-esteem. Based on model testing via
the bootstrap method (Preacher & Hayes, 2008), the hypothesis was supported. The findings of the pre-
sent study contribute to the discussion of the role that perceived ethnic-racial socialization plays in Asian
Americans’ positive development. Further, the present study contributes to the limited research on ethnic-
racial socialization among Asian Americans.
Keywords: Ethnic-Racial Socialization; Ethnic Identity; Self-Esteem; Asian Americans; Emerging Adults
Socialization is defined as the transmission of attitudes, cus-
toms, motives, roles, skills, and values from a range of sociali-
zation agents (e.g., parents, teachers, community members) to
youths (Harrison, Wilson, Pine, Chan, & Buriel, 1990; Parke &
Buriel, 1998). Accompanying the growth of ethnic and racial
groups in the United States, research over the last 30 years has
focused on the socialization processes of ethnic and racial mi-
nority families (Quintana et al., 2006). Researchers have revea-
led that socializing youth about ethnicity and race (i.e., ethnic-
racial socialization) is a predominant component of socializa-
tion in ethnic and racial minority families (Garcia Coll et al.,
Any socialization agent (e.g., teachers) can engage in eth-
nic-racial socialization with youths (Harrison et al., 1990; Parke
& Buriel, 1998). However, the majority of the extant literature
on ethnic-racial socialization has focused on the messages and
practices that come from parents. This comes as no surprise, as
developmental psychology highlights parents as especially en-
gaged in youths’ development (Grusec & Kuczynski, 1997;
Steinberg & Morris, 2001).
One of the most well-known models of parental ethnic-racial
socialization was developed by Hughes and Chen (1997). Hu-
ghes and Chen’s model consists of four dimensions: 1) cultural
socialization (emphasis on pride in one’s ethnic or racial group,
traditions, and history); 2) pluralism (emphasis on an apprecia-
tion and knowledge of all ethnic and racial groups and treating
all groups as equal); 3) promotion of mistrust (emphasis on
being cautious of other ethnic and racial groups and pushing for
maintaining distance from them); and 4) preparation for bias
(emphasis on promotion of an awareness of ethnic and racial
prejudice and discrimination that occurs in society). Although
the model was initially developed for African American fami-
lies, researchers have found that the model can be applied to
families of other ethnic and racial backgrounds (e.g., Hughes,
Researchers have revealed that parental ethnic-racial sociali-
zation (in particular, the dimension of cultural socialization) is
connected to ethnic identity among ethnic and racial minority
youths (Rivas-Drake, Hughes, & Way, 2009; Umaña-Taylor,
Bhanot, & Shin, 2006). In a separate line of research, research-
ers have revealed that ethnic identity is connected to psychoso-
cial outcomes, including higher self-esteem, among ethnic and
racial minority youths (see Phinney, 1990, for a review). How-
ever, few studies have connected these two lines of research by
testing a larger model that links parental ethnic-racial socializa-
tion, ethnic identity, and psychosocial outcomes among ethnic
and racial minority youths.
To date, Tran and Lee’s (2010) study is one of few to exam-
ine a larger model that links parental ethnic-racial socialization
to psychosocial outcomes among Asian Americans, specifically.
According to Tran and Lee (2010), there is a need for research
that addresses parental ethnic-racial socialization among Asian
Americans, as only a handful of relevant studies have included
Asian Americans (Cheng & Kuo, 2000; Nagata, 1993; Ou &
McAdoo, 1993). Further, Tran and Lee (2010) affirm that there
“remains a need for research focusing on the … developmental
correlates of specific ethnic-racial practices within Asian Ame-
C. M. BROWN ET AL.
rican families to understand the psychosocial adjustment of
Asian Americans” (p. 170). In their study, Tran and Lee (2010)
recruited Asian American late adolescents (N = 169) and tested
a model that proposed that perceived cultural socialization-plu-
ralism (a combination of both cultural socialization and plural-
ism messages) has an indirect effect on perceived social com-
petence via ethnic identity. The authors found support for the
model: When participants reported perceiving more frequent
messages of cultural socialization-pluralism from their parents,
this had an indirect effect on better social competence via
stronger ethnic identity. Tran and Lee (2010) note that more
research is needed to “understand ethnic-racial socialization
across the life span” (p. 176).
Purpose of Present Study
The purpose of the present study was to extend Tran and
Lee’s (2010) research in two ways. First, the present study te-
sted a model similar to Tran and Lee’s but replaced their de-
pendent variable, social competence, with self-esteem. We cho-
se to examine self-esteem because: 1) of its connection to eth-
nic identity (Phinney, 1990), and 2) it is another potential de-
velopmental correlate of ethnic-racial socialization that should
be considered. Second, the present study tested the model a-
mong Asian American emerging adults (i.e., ages 18 to 25), not
late adolescents. The present study focused on emerging adult-
hood because: 1) this a time of new opportunities and experi-
ences which may encourage ethnic identity development, as
well as the development of other constructs (Arnett, 2006), and
2) Tran and Lee (2010) note that more research is needed to
“understand ethnic-racial socialization across the life span” (p.
The present study hypothesized that perceiving more fre-
quent messages of cultural socialization-pluralism from parents
would indirectly lead to higher self-esteem via stronger ethnic
identity. See Figure 1.
The participants were 114 self-identified Asian Americans
(M age = 21.34 years, SD = 1.74 years; 66% female). The re-
ported familial countries of origin were China (26%), Vietnam
(20%), Philippines (18%), Taiwan (18%), Japan (8%), Hong
Kong (6%), Thailand (2%), Cambodia (1%), and Laos (1%).
The majority of the participants (82%) reported that they were
born in the United States.
Demographics. The participants were asked to report their
age, gender, familial country of origin, and country of birth.
Proposed model in the present study.
Cultural socialization-pluralism. The participants comple- ted
the cultural socialization-pluralism dimension (five items total)
from Hughes and Johnson’s (2001) measure. In Hughes and
Johnson’s (2001) measure, the items measured the frequency of
parent-reported ethnic-racial socialization over the past year. In
our study, there were two differences. First, the items were
reported by the participants, not the participants’ parents [simi-
lar to Tran and Lee’s (2010) study]. Second, the items were
adapted to measure perceived cultural socialization-pluralism
while growing up, not over the past year alone. The participants
responded to the five items on a five-point scale ranging from 1
(never) to 5 (very often). Two example items are: “While grow-
ing up, how often have your parent(s) done or said things to
show you that all people are equal regardless of race/ethnicity?”
and “While growing up, how often have your parent(s) encour-
aged you to read books about your racial/ethnic group?” A
higher mean score indicates a perception of more frequent cul-
tural socialization-pluralism. In the present study, the alpha for
perceived cultural socialization-pluralism was .78.
Ethnic identity. The participants completed the Multigroup
Ethnic Identity Measure (Phinney, 1992). The participants re-
sponded to the 12 items on a four-point scale, ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). An example item is:
“I have a strong sense of belonging to my own ethnic group.” A
higher mean score indicates a stronger ethnic identity. In the
present study, the alpha for ethnic identity was .89.
Self-Esteem. The participants completed the Rosenberg Self-
Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965). The participants responded to
the 10 items on a four-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). An example item is: “I feel that
I have a number of good qualities.” A higher mean score indi-
cates higher self-esteem. In the present study, the alpha for self-
esteem was .90.
Before initiating participant recruitment, approval was ob-
tained from the appropriate Institutional Review Board. The
participants were recruited via snowball sampling on Facebook
(www.facebook.com) and completed an anonymous online sur-
vey. All participants were eligible to enter a raffle to win mo-
Table 1 provides the correlations, means, and standard de-
viations of perceived cultural socialization-pluralism, ethnic i-
dentity, and self-esteem. Perceived cultural socialization-plura-
lism was positively correlated with ethnic identity, but not with
self-esteem. Ethnic identity was positively correlated with self-
esteem. See Table 1.
Correlations and descriptive statistics of study variables.
Scale 1 2 3 MSD N
1. Cultural Socialization-Pluralism - .28* .04 2.27.76114
2. Ethnic Identity - .18┼ 3.01.50114
3. Self-Esteem - 2.98.50114
*p < .01, ┼p = .05.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 79
C. M. BROWN ET AL.
In order to test the hypothesized model, the bootstrap method
was utilized (Preacher & Hayes, 2008) in SPSS version 19.0.
The bootstrap method is a non-parametric statistical approach
in which cases from the original data set are randomly re-sa-
mpled with replacement, which re-estimates the sampling dis-
tribution of the indirect effect (i.e., the a path multiplied by the
b path). This re-sampling process is repeated thousands of times
(in our study, it was repeated 5,000 times), which creates an
estimate of the sampling distribution of the indirect effect. The
estimate is presented via confidence intervals. If zero is not
contained within the upper and lower confidence intervals, the
indirect effect is considered significant. The bootstrap method
has advantages over other methods of testing mediation (Shrout
& Bolger, 2002), as it 1) does not compromise statistical power
with multiple tests (Baron & Kenny, 1986); 2) does not hold
the assumption of a normal distribution of the data (Sobel, 1982,
1986); and 3) is the preferred approach for small-to-medium
Before testing the hypothesized model, the demographic va-
riables [age, gender, familial country of origin, and country of
birth (US or not)] were correlated with the dependent variable,
self-esteem. Two of the demographic variables were correlated
with higher self-esteem: age (r = .29, p = .002) and male gender
(r = –.20, p = .04). Therefore, both age and gender were con-
trolled for in the model testing.
The results of the model testing revealed that the model was
significant (p = .001), with an R2 value of .15. Zero was not
contained within the upper (.0052) and lower (.0869) confiden-
ce intervals of the indirect effect. Therefore, the indirect effect
was significant, and the hypothesis was supported: Perceiving
more frequent cultural socialization-pluralism from parents in-
directly led to higher self-esteem via stronger ethnic identity.
The purpose of the present study was to extend Tran and
Lee’s (2010) research in two ways. First, Tran and Lee’s de-
pendent variable, social competence, was replaced with self-es-
teem. Second, the model was tested among Asian American
emerging adults, not late adolescents. The present study hy-
pothesized that perceiving more frequent messages of cultural
socialization-pluralism from parents would indirectly lead to
higher self-esteem via stronger ethnic identity. Based on model
testing via the bootstrap method (Preacher & Hayes, 2008), the
hypothesis was supported.
The findings of the present study suggest that perceived cul-
tural socialization-pluralism has an indirect effect not only on
the psychosocial outcome of social competence (Tran & Lee,
2010), but on the psychosocial outcome of self-esteem as well.
Further, the findings of the present study suggest that the indi-
rect effect of perceived ethnic-racial socialization on psychoso-
cial outcomes may be a phenomenon that is relevant not only
for Asian American late adolescents, but also for Asian Ameri-
can emerging adults.
The present study has limitations that must be addressed. Fi-
rst, the data are entirely correlational and, therefore, conclusions
about causality cannot be made. Second, there is no perspective
from the participants’ parents, which prevents capturing a lar-
ger picture of the socialization processes within the partici-
pants’ families. Third, the sample combined Asian American
ethnic groups. This is similar to the approach taken by Tran and
Lee (2010), as the researchers also combined the Asian Ameri-
can ethnic groups in their study. However, in the future, resea-
rchers should aim to look at distinct Asian American ethnic
groups without aggregation.
The present study contributes to the discussion of the role
that perceived ethnic-racial socialization plays in Asian Ameri-
cans’ positive development. Further, the present study contrib-
utes to the limited research on ethnic-racial socialization among
Asian American families. In the future, researchers might con-
sider looking at the indirect effects of additional ethnic-racial
socialization dimensions (e.g., preparation for bias) on psycho-
social outcomes beyond social competence and self-esteem.
Further, longitudinal studies in this area should be considered.
The authors thank Rachel Cook of Agnes Scott College for
her assistance with this paper.
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