'Family Ties' Responsible For S.F. Chinese Teens' Good Mental Health -- Despite Tightfistedness of Alex P. Keaton

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S.F. State researchers say 'family ties' inspire mental health in Chinese American communities. Tina Yothers would be proud.
Caring for younger siblings or family elders may well be a pain in the ass -- but it could well be keeping San Francisco's Chinese American teens well-adjusted, according to a just-published study.

San Francisco State professors Linda Juang and Jeffrey Cookston spent two years following the lives of 218 Chinese American teens in two San Francisco high schools. In a paper published in this month's edition of the Journal of Family Psychology the pair claim that 14-year-olds bound by more family ties, so to speak, reported fewer symptoms of depression two years later.

In other words, a cluttered schedule of family obligations as a freshman arguably leads to a clearer mind as a junior.

"The findings suggest that family obligation may be protective against depressive symptoms," said Cookston. "It could be that a greater sense of family obligation in the early teenage years provides teenagers with a strong family bond that makes them feel secure even when they move through adolescence and become more autonomous."

During the two-year period of the professors' study, they found that as the children grew older, their actual time spent in support of their families decreased -- but their positive attitudes toward their siblings and elders did not. The researchers maintain that this means even as young people begin to talk and look less like the older generations, the "traditional cultural mindset" is still prevalent.

"Parents may see their children being less and less Chinese," says the professor, "But in fact the teenagers' attitudes and beliefs that family obligation is important and valuable remain very consistent through adolescence."

Or, as folks used to say a century ago about a different recent immigrant group, "dress British, think Yiddish."

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