The Impact of Internalized Racism on Mental Health Symptoms Among Asian American College Students

Li Wei Yuan, MA, PsyD Candidate

Brigham and Women’s Hospital – Clinical Psychology Intern
Yuan_LiWei poster

Scientific Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in discrimination towards Asian Americans (AA), complicating the relationship between internalized racism and mental health symptoms among AA. Existing literature has hypothesized that internalized racism among AA may create expectations for AA, and lead AA to attribute failure to self when racism prevents AA from achieving the expectation. The current analyses aim to examine the hypothesized mediation effect of internalizing attribution style on the relationship between internalized racism and AA/A’s depression, anxiety, and racial trauma symptoms in past literature.

Methods: The study utilized data from 135 Asian American young adults (18–30 years) who completed online surveys during the COVID-19 pandemic across two waves (April-August 2020 and September 2020-March 2021).

Results: Our results suggested that internalizing attribution style did not mediate the relationships between internalized racism and depression, anxiety, and racial trauma. Additional analyses suggested complete mediation effects. Internalized racism predicted lower self-reported direct and vicarious discrimination, which in turn predicted lower racial trauma symptoms.

Conclusions: Various confounding factor may have contributed to our null findings. We caution the readers in interpreting internalized racism as a protective factor based on our data from the additional analyses due to measure and methodology limitations. We discuss how our findings and the limitations to our study can inform future research.

Live Zoom Session – March 9th

research Areas


Kyle Yuan, Ga Tin Finneas Wong, ElTohamy Abdelrahman, Hyeouk C Hahm, and Cindy H. Liu

Principal Investigator

Cindy H Liu

Affiliated Website