Children of immigrants often excel as students because their parents have very high expectations of them and make sacrifices to ensure they get the best opportunities. Now a study of Chinese-American youths shows that they have another advantage over their peers: they tend to have better mental health than average in their mid-teens. The reason highlighted by the study is their sense of obligation to their families — caring for siblings or helping elders, for example.

Researchers surveyed 218 of these young people from age 14 to age 16 and found that those who reported a greater sense of family obligation reported fewer depressive symptoms by the time they were 16.

The authors suggest that a greater sense of family obligation in the early teenage years could provide teenagers with a strong family bond that makes them feel secure even when they move through adolescence and become more autonomous.

As participants grew older, their actions to help and support their families decreased. However, their attitude and respect toward their families remained stable, indicating that immigrant adolescents continue to endorse their traditional cultural values even when their behaviors suggest they are becoming less traditional.

Having a constructive role to play in the family turns out to be much healthier than being holed up in your room endlessly texting and updating your Facebook page.~ Science Daily, Jun 8


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet