Interpersonal risk factors, shame, and depression among Asian Americans: A longitudinal study of perfectionistic family discrepancy and self-compassion as moderators

Carrera, Stephanie
Major Professor
Meifen Wei
Committee Member
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This longitudinal study (Time 1 = beginning of the spring semester [February-March]; Time 2 = end of the spring semester [April-June]; Time 3 = middle of the fall semester [September-October]) applied Joiner’s (2005) Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide to Asian Americans’ experiences with depression. A moderated mediation model was tested. Perfectionistic family discrepancy and self-compassion were hypothesized to moderate the mediation effect of interpersonal shame on the interpersonal risk factors (i.e., thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness) and depression relationships while controlling for initial level of depression.

A total of 605 Asian Americans attending predominantly White, Midwestern universities completed three online surveys. Conditional process modeling via Hayes’s (2013) PROCESS was used to analyze the data. Neither perfectionistic family discrepancy nor self-compassion moderated the hypothesized mediation effects. However, post hoc analyses supported the mediation hypothesis, and perfectionistic family discrepancy moderated the direct effects of thwarted belongingness on depression while controlling for initial level of depression. Specifically, results from conditional direct effects indicated that the significantly positive association between thwarted belongingness and depression was stronger for those with higher than lower perfectionistic family discrepancy. Perfectionistic family discrepancy also moderated the direct effect of perceived burdensomeness on depression while controlling for initial level of depression. While the conditional direct effects were not significant, the significant interaction demonstrated that the slopes at different levels of the moderator were significantly different from each other. When perfectionistic family discrepancy was experienced at a high level, the slope was positive; at a low level, the slope was negative. Therefore, Asian Americans with higher discrepancy in meeting their families’ standards for performance are more vulnerable to depression when they believe they burden others compared to those with lower discrepancy. Self-compassion did not significantly moderate the thwarted belongingness-depression or perceived burdensomeness-depression relations.

In sum, this study extended Joiner’s (2005) theory to Asian Americans’ risk for future depression. Our model also identified that Asian American college students with high family expectations for perfectionism may be at higher risk for depression that stems from experiences of interpersonal shame, thwarted belongingness, and perceived burdensomeness. Limitations, future research directions, and counseling implications were discussed.