Kristofer Castro

“Social Standing as a Moderator of Perceptions of Racial Discrimination and Well-Being in Asian Immigrant Mothers”

Kristofer Castro

Asian immigrants are the fastest-growing racial group in the United States. Still, Asian immigrants experience a large amount of racial discrimination. This discrimination includes the behavioral practices or social structures used to denigrate individuals of a group based on ethnic identity or skin color. Racial discrimination in Asian Americans has been shown to decrease the psychological well-being of those that perceive it. However, the role of perceived social standing and economic opportunity as a moderator in that negative relation has not been shown. The research to date has shown the role SES plays as a buffer in other ethnic groups in the U.S. along with other such moderators (e.g. social support and acculturation). This research aims to examine: (1) the association between first-generation Asian immigrant mothers’ perceptions of racial discrimination they experience in the U.S. and their psychological well-being, and (2) the moderating role of maternal perceptions of economic opportunity and social standing in the U.S. in the association between maternal perceptions of racial discrimination and maternal psychological well-being.

Who is your mentor for your research project?
Dr. Charissa Cheah, Psychology Department.

How did you arrange to work with this person?
A mentor of mine suggested that I work in Dr. Cheah’s Culture, Child, and Adolescent Development (CCAD) Lab as an RA. From there I went through the lab’s application process and was accepted during the Fall 2015 semester. I came into the program with a desire to work on research of my own. I made it clear to my mentor as well as the graduate students I worked with that this was one of my goals. Moreover, I dedicated my time and attention to the lab to show my willingness to not only participate as a research assistant, but also be a contributing member to the research produced in the lab.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
As a research psychologist, my interests lay in the interaction between the lived cultural and ethnic experiences of marginalized populations and the psychological outcomes therein. In the CCAD lab we work with first generation Chinese immigrant and Korean immigrant families. It was clear for me to work on a project that utilized our data on ethnic identity of our subjects to better understand its association with parenting behavior outcomes and psychological well-being.

Is this your first independent research project?

Do you get course credit for this work?

How much time do you put into it?
I try to put in about 20 hours a week on this specific project.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
My mentor, Dr. Charissa Cheah, suggested that I apply for the URA program.

What academic background did you have before you applied for the URA?
None really. I took five years off from college before coming to UMBC. Because of that, I think I wasted my first two semesters focused just on my classes and not attending to the other areas needed to be a viable graduate school applicant.

Was the application difficult to do?
The application was clear and concise. Editing the abstract needed for the project took the longest time.

How much did your mentor help you with the application?
My mentor along with her graduate student Kathy Vu, allowed me the space to develop my application at my own pace while always being available to edit anything I had written.

What has been the hardest part about your research?
The hardest part of the research has been in me having to be flexible to shift my schedule and deadlines around to match the reality of the project. For example, pulling an all-nighter to rewrite an abstract after changing variables and an analysis model.

What was the most unexpected thing?
Finding that the first set of variables I wanted to analyze resulted in non-significant results.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
My current research, pools together all the skills I have developed being a psychology major at UMBC. Moreover, it has been incredibly pertinent for me to utilize the research methods skills from my PSYC 311 class.

What else are you involved in on campus?
Beyond my time working on this project, I spend the rest of my time on campus attending to my duties in the CCAD lab so that I can continue to improve on my lab experience.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Don’t do research just to get into graduate school. That isn’t to say that you need to love every second of the research process, but if you are struggling to find anything in it to inspire you then I would ask yourself if this is what you want. It is possible that you just might not be doing the research you want, but it also might mean that this isn’t for you.

What are your career goals?
I hope to one day receive my PhD in either Clinical-Community Psychology or Community Psychology. From there, I want to bring my skill set to my family home of Hawaii. I plan on working with the indigenous population to develop programs to rebuild and increase empowerment within the community in the hopes of halting the damage being caused by being a trans-colonial state.

Did you transfer to UMBC from another institution? Where?
Yes. Harford Community College.


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