The Cost of Academic Focus: Daily School Problems and Biopsychological Adjustment in Chinese American Families

Yang Qu*, Beiming Yang, Eva H. Telzer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Stress from daily school problems may accumulate and eventually lead to mental health issues in both youth and their parents. With a strong cultural emphasis on school performance, Chinese American families may be particularly vulnerable to such stress. In the current research, Chinese American adolescents (N = 95; Mean age = 13.7 years; 51% girls) and their parents completed daily diary reports of school problems and emotional well-being for 14 continuous days. Adolescents also provided four saliva samples per day for 4 consecutive days. Multilevel modeling analyses showed that youth’s daily school problems predicted their lower happiness, higher distress, and higher total cortisol output above and beyond their emotional well-being and cortisol output the prior day. Moreover, there was a spillover effect such that youth’s school problems also negatively predicted their parents’ emotional well-being. Notably, the negative influence from school problems was moderated by children’s cultural orientation, such that youth who were more oriented toward Chinese (vs. American) culture were more vulnerable to the school problems. Taken together, our results highlight the costs on biopsychological adjustment accompanying the academic focus in Chinese American youth and their parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1631-1644
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Adolescents
  • Chinese American
  • Daily diary
  • School problems
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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