A Longitudinal Investigation of Racial Discrimination, Drinking to Cope, and Alcohol-Related Problems Among Underage Asian American College Students

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Few studies have investigated alcohol-related problems among Asian American college students, perhaps because of the model minority myth, or the false stereotype that Asian Americans are academically and economically successful and thus do not experience significant physical or mental health problems. However, drinking patterns among Asian Americans are complex and there is evidence that alcohol use may be increasing among Asian American college students. One potential risk factor for alcohol-related problems among Asian American college students is racial discrimination. Although past research has revealed a link between experiences of racial discrimination and alcohol use, few studies have examined the psychological processes underlying this association. Furthermore, only a few studies have examined the association between discrimination and alcohol-related problems using longitudinal designs. The present study longitudinally examined the direct and indirect effect of discrimination on alcohol-related problems through the frequency in which they engaged in drinking to cope within a sample of 311 underage Asian American college students. Controlling for alcohol use and baseline alcohol-related problems, Wave 2 drinking-to-cope motives were directly associated with Wave 3 (1 year later) alcohol-related problems. Wave 1 discrimination was indirectly associated with Wave 3 alcohol-related problems through drinking to cope. These findings have important implications for the prevention of alcohol-related problems among an understudied group, Asian American college students. They highlight the necessity of considering how sociocultural factors such as racism contribute to alcohol-related problems as well as examining how psychological processes such as drinking to cope put certain students at increased risk.

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