Risk behaviors including alcohol disorders, problem drinking and substance misuse are a growing problem among Asian American young adult population. Despite this growing public health problem, the factors underlying this increase are largely understudied and poorly understood. To address this important health disparity, one emerging line of research examines the relationship between stereotype threat as a form of racial discrimination and risky behaviors including substance use. Stereotype threat describes the phenomenon and process whereupon minorities or stigmatized individuals experience additional pressure and fear that they are being judged or at risk of confirming a """"""""negative"""""""" stereotype. Theoretical models suggest that stress induced by stereotype threat impairs decision-making and heightens maladaptive risk-taking behavior including substance abuse. Despite strong evidence that links """"""""negative"""""""" stereotypes with risk-taking behaviors, there is little theoretical understanding of how discrimination in the form of supposed """"""""positive"""""""" stereotypes influences risky behaviors. This is of special relevance to Asian Americans because this group has been historically characterized as a """"""""model-minority"""""""" through the supposed """"""""positive"""""""" stereotypic view that its members are inherently protected, experience high academic achievement, and have low rates of substance use. Towards this end, the following proposal is in line with NIDA's strategic plan to better understand the incidence and causes of substance abuse among ethnic minorities. The proposed study uses a 2 x 2 between- subjects design among a community sample of 160 Asian American young adults. Risk-taking will be examined using a laboratory risk task after the completion of a rigged math task whereupon some participants will be told they scored in the top 90% vs. others will be told they scored in the bottom 10% (Factor 1) taken in the context of either model-minority stereotype threat activation or non-activation conditions (Factor 2). We hypothesize that risk taking on the task will be highest for the group in the """"""""failure"""""""" (bottom 10th percentile) group due to activation of the model-minority stereotype. Moreover, we hypothesize that the strength of this relationship will vary depending on the individual's racial identity. The significance of this innovative study lies n: 1) studying this relationship in a lab-based setting allowing the random assignment of participants to experimental conditions such as stereotype threat and performance evaluation, and comparing the differences between groups in risk-taking propensity, and 2) using the Balloon Analogue Risk Task which is an ecologically-valid and novel behavior assessment that has been shown to be related to risk taking behaviors including substance use among a community sample of Asian Americans. Accordingly, this work advances science through an understanding of the context and determinants of risk-taking. Applied implications include the development and modification of interventions to better meet the needs of Asian Americans as an underserved population increasingly at risk for the consequences of substance use.

Public Health Relevance

Substance abuse is significantly increasing among subgroups of Asian American young adults, yet a substantial gap in knowledge continues to exist regarding the nature of risk-taking behavior among this health disparity group. Findings from this study will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the processes that underlie how the model-minority stereotype and performance evaluation heightens risk-taking propensity with a particular focus on stereotype threat among a community sample of Asian American young adults. By understanding the context and determinants of risk- taking propensity we can advance science, as well as improve and adapt clinical interventions to better meet the needs of one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, Asian Americans.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDA1-GXM-A (05))
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Schulden, Jeffrey D
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University of Maryland College Park
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College Park
United States
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