I chose to defend my thesis on this topic because of the growing resentment that I have personally witnessed in the Pakistani, Indian and Bengali community between parents and their respective children. I believe we are all talented in one way or another, and for most of us, those god given or learned talents take a while for us to grasp and utilize. Sometimes personalities, personal experiences and people that we meet in our journey of life challenge and ultimately change our vision of vice and virtue. Parents, with all good intent sometimes miss out on these experiences and expect their children who, at the time are adults to follow in the footsteps designed by them.
Here is a modified condensed version of my thesis that I defended arguing the detriments of academic pressure on students of South Asian descent in the United States.
The purpose of this thesis paper is intended to determine a connection between academic pressure and the various lifestyle factors in adulthood amongst South Asian Americans. Fifty research articles were reviewed to determine whether or not connections between job satisfaction, marital relationships and assimilation amongst South Asian graduates held any connection the degree of academic pressure faced in childhood. After extensive review, there does seem to exist a connection between the aforementioned lifestyle factors and academic pressure in South Asian adults of the United States.
The culmination of this research would not have been possible without the efforts of Dr. McKiernan of California Southern University, who, tirelessly critiqued my work to make it a complete and plausible piece of work. His mentorship and direction provided me the necessary tools to modify the contents of the paper to convey the connections I had proposed. This paper would also not be possible without the availability of the research studies and the researchers who made their work available to myself.
Academic pressure for the sake of loosely defining it refers to any pressure exerted on an individual for the sake of attaining an academic achievement or benchmark. While that sounds pretty simple, the not-so-subtle means of academic pressure are often placed on students at an early age by their parents (Purkaystha, 2009). South Asian parents, who typically have emigrated to the United States and other first world countries with the hopes of attaining a better lifestyle tend to place the greatest amount of pressure on their children (Ngo, 2006). Often escaping poverty, political anarchy and the lack of upward social mobility, South Asian parents put themselves through intense labor, often working odd end jobs, but also expecting their children to perform at the absolute best (Purkaystha, 2009). While these parental expectations are great and are intended to motivate their child, the particular interest lies in examining the current literature that explores the relationship between the quality of South Asian graduates and their lifestyles in relation to the amount of academic pressure placed on them by their parents. The intent is to understand and explore the connection between happiness (broken into work-life balance, marriage, family stability and assimilation) and the amount of academic pressure that their parents placed on them as a child or as a young adult. The goal is to identify whether or not academic pressure is harmful in the formation of relationships, personal satisfaction and lifestyles or if it actually helps motivate the individual to reach their desired goals.
Background of the Problem
The focus of the study is necessitated by the very values that Asian and South Asian cultures embody. The average South Asian student is expected to master a specific major of study or subset of study by their parents (Kim & Gasman, 2011). The expectations set forth by either the parents or communal pressure from extended family is cited as a major decisive factor when choosing a college major by almost seventy percent of the South Asian population (Agarwal, 2013). The underlying reasons for this have to do with the cultural norms that exist in South Asian cultures. South Asian students are raised with collectivistic mindsets, meaning that their goal driven milestones are a reflection of their entire family, not just themselves (Ngo, 2006). In addition, many students cited their job selection to be heavily based on the familial expectations set forth by their parents (Agarwal, 2013). The resulting consequences are usually that these individuals grow into adulthood with problems pertaining to their marital affairs, express discontentment with their jobs and often that they feel left out amongst their friends and peers (Kim &Gasman, 2011).
Moreover, many surveyed Asian Americans cite that their exploratory process of discovering a satisfying career never manifested, largely in part because of the predisposed notions of salary and honor that would be achieved from their community (Purkayastha, 2009). These experiences, or lack thereof are cited to be amongst the top reasons for citing job discontentment amongst South Asian Americans. A career is a very time intensive aspect of an individual’s life and it is therefore of great importance to understand the underlying deep rooted factors that influence students to choose a career path over the other. Consequently, many of these students, now adults, feel that their lack of experiential learning hindered them from discovering their true passion and are often overwhelmed with the lack of a true work-life balance (Liang &Ngyugen, 2017).
Marriage is another area that is deeply affected by the pressure exerted on South Asian students. About fifty percent of South Asian college graduates believe that their marriage would have been easier to navigate if they had chosen a different career path (Quraishi, 2016.) They listed long working hours and the inability to honor commitments with family as the leading cause of marital discontentment and some have said that their spouses feel disconnected after growing busy with their career (Kim & Gasman, 2011). The aforementioned areas of lifestyle satisfaction may or may not have to do with the pressure placed on academia and the resulting consequences of them, however it is important to explore whether or not a connection or relationship can be said to have existed.
Statement of The Problem
Academic pressure placed on students of South Asian descent by their parents is leading to the creation of an unwanted lifestyle and unwarranted psychological detriments to their social functioning. One of the major consequences of this pressure is demonstrated by the fact that graduates of South Asian descent repeatedly cite inflexible work-life conditions to be the root cause of their unhappiness (Liang & Song, 2017). When asked for their motives behind their career choice, they attributed their decision to parental influence and the emotional consequences that would result had they not followed through that specific career path (Liang & Song, 2017). Another deep-rooted psychological consequence of academic pressure is the inability to assimilate to the societal conditions around peers, resulting in an inability to form meaningful relationships beyond the field of academia (Shen & Liao, 2014). Individuals have cited that their intense focus on academia have left them feeling out place in social gatherings, resulting in feelings of inadequacy and awkwardness (Shen & Liao, 2014). The totality of these dissatisfactory feelings and its connection to the academic pressure put forth by the parents of South Asian students are the main problems at hand. Academic pressure placed on students of South Asian descent by their parents is leading to the creation of an unwanted lifestyle and unwarranted psychological detriments to their social functioning. One of the major consequences of this pressure is demonstrated by the fact that graduates of South Asian descent repeatedly cite inflexible work-life conditions to be the root cause of their unhappiness (Liang & Song, 2017). When asked for their motives behind their career choice, they attributed their decision to parental influence and the emotional consequences that would result had they not followed through that specific career path (Liang & Song, 2017). Another deep-rooted psychological consequence of academic pressure is the inability to assimilate to the societal conditions around peers, resulting in an inability to form meaningful relationships beyond the field of academia (Shen & Liao, 2014). Individuals have cited that their intense focus on academia have left them feeling out place in social gatherings, resulting in feelings of inadequacy and awkwardness (Shen & Liao, 2014). The totality of these dissatisfactory feelings and its connection to the academic pressure put forth by the parents of South Asian students are the main problems at hand.
Purpose of The Study
The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not a connection exists between academic pressure and lifestyle contentment of South Asian students. The intent is to study the detrimental effects of academic pressure in the form of parental influence to see if they can be connected with the discontent feelings experienced in the job force, marriage and within the realm of assimilation amongst peers. Furthermore, the purpose of the study is to also discover any confounding variables that may better explain the discontentment experienced by the South Asian adults. Together, the totality of these of these factors and its findings will aim to identify a connection between high academic pressure childhoods and their adult lifestyles, if any
The academic pressure put on South Asian students by their parents can best be explained by the phenomena of psychological control. Developmental psychologists have used Schaefer’s model of psychological to explain the detrimental effects of psychological influence on a child’s upbringing. As per Schaefer’s model, psychological control refers to parenting behaviors that generally intrude upon their children’s thoughts and feelings that are used to manipulate children into experiencing guilt-induction, shaming and love withdrawal. (Lee & Cho, 2015). In this particular case, the use of academic pressure by South Asian parents is said to be the means of psychological control that inhibits their children’s true pursuit of choice towards career. Psychological control is often thought to inhibit a child’s development of a security and ability to form independent concise opinions. (Lee & Cho, 2015). In this particular case, it can be argued that the use of psychological control hinders South Asian student’s ability to adequately choose a rewarding career and form meaningful relationships amongst their peers. Moreover, parenting styles from childhood affect a child’s psychological decision making process pertaining to autonomy, competence and self-directed motives (Sangawi & Reissland, 2016). Research has found that parents who practiced an authoritative parenting style raised children raised teenagers and eventually adults who had difficulty forming meaningful relationships and being assertive about their tastes and aversions. (Sangawi & Reissland, 2016). Based on these research findings, it can be said that there is a connection between the psychological control placed by the parents and the resulting lifestyle choices in South Asian graduates.
RQ1. What is the relationship between being a South Asian immigrant and assimilation in the college environment?
RQ2. What role, if any, does academic pressure play career choice selection for South Asian students?
RQ3.What difficulties do South Asian students face in formulating meaningful relationships at college with their peers?
RQ4. What is the psychological impact of the core cultural values amongst South Asian students?
RQ5. To what extent does societal pressure influence South Asian students decisions in picking a career choice?
H1. There is a direct connection between South Asian graduates and their inability to assimilate to the societal norms of their peers during college.
H2. Academic pressure plays a detrimental effect on South Asian student’s career choices
H3. It is hypothesized that South Asian students face difficulties in the areas of social bonding activities that prevents forming meaningful relationships with peers.
H4. It is hypothesized that South Asian students are taught to uphold the values of communal family, respect of elders and to carry out the wishes of the parents into adulthood.
H5. Societal pressure plays a part in choosing one’s career, but does not have as great of an effect as parental pressure.
Importance of the Study
The importance of the study can be highlighted by the number of individuals that the study impacts. As of 2015, 3.2 million Asian Americans were of South Asian descent, of which, 43% were students enrolled in a college or trade school (Sangawi, 2016). This information denotes two things, first of which is that accurately finding detrimental connections allows individuals to prevent future occurrences and the second that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. South Asian students constitute about 19 percent of our job force today and their mental health along with their personal satisfaction is valuable for themselves and also the individuals they service through their work (Lee, 2015). This study aims to identify the connection between academic pressure and the corresponding lifestyle factors that are believed to be affected.
Scope Of Study
The scope of the study will focus on the lifestyle factors, namely job satisfaction, marriage life and assimilation in their relation to academic pressure. The study will assess self-reported responses from South Asian students in relation to their careers and whether or not they are happy with it, along with whether or not they would redo their career. This information will be derived from several studies that have interviewed and surveyed South Asian adults in relation to their career satisfaction and career nuances. Marriage satisfaction and assimilation will additionally be measured in the same manner of self reported responses[PM4] . The study will also assess the different kinds of academic pressure faced and its direct connection to the effect it has had on the South Asian graduates.
Definition of Terms
Assimilation – refers to the collective body of social events that created camaraderie amongst friends in college (Shen & Liao, 2014.)
Marriage satisfaction – refers to the self-reported quality of marriage by married, working South Asian adults (Shen & Liao, 2014.)
Work-life balance – refers to the collective quality of balance between actual work hours and the available time allotted for personal activities (Purkayastha,2009.)
Summary and Organization of the Remaining Chapters
The remaining chapters will focus on the research literature that supports the problem at hand. The research will include an extensive deep dive into the various kinds of academic pressure and the consequential connections that can be made on various lifestyle aspects. After careful review and consideration of the implications of the collective studies, it can be determined whether or not a connection exists between academic pressure and the aforementioned lifestyle factors.
Chapter Two: Review of Related Literature
The connection between academic pressure and the lifestyle choices by Asian American students are demonstrated in ways more than one by various studies that have been conducted over the past decade. Numerous studies have demonstrated a connection between academic pressure and various areas of their lifestyle (Agarwal, 2013). For starters, the study Economic disparities among South Asian immigrants in Canada by Agarwal demonstrated that the lifestyle satisfaction index was higher amongst higher echelons of education versus lower ones (Agarwal, 2013) Agarwal studied the economic disparities amongst South Asian immigrants in Canada by dividing the groups of individuals based on their education level (Agarwal, 2013). The study found that individuals of higher education levels corresponded to better pay amongst the South Asian graduates (Agarwal, 2013). When surveyed as to why they chose to pursue higher education, they cited an obligation to provide for their family and parental influence as a means of preconceived expectations.
Academic Influence on Career and Lifestyles
The parental influence findings are not confined to strictly one study, as the research study In Search of a “Good College”: Decisions and Determinations Behind Asian American Students College Choice exemplifies a similar phenomenon. The researcher conducting the study found that parental influence and duration of the study were the top factors that influence college decisions and college majors. Moreover, the study also found that South Asian students who migrated to the country within 5 years of their college start date chose majors that closely resembled their college success back home (Kim & Gasman, 2011). Students who grew up here from the onset of childhood were more likely to pick majors that averaged the highest number in average annual pay with the shortest duration. This study further demonstrates the notion that there is indeed a connection between the career and lifestyle chosen and the parental pressure that is exerted from parents of South Asian descent.
Academic pressure can be seen as a clear determinant of lifestyle factors in the previous two studies. However, there is more evidence that suggests that it also plays a role in the assimilation process that many ethnic students face, here in the United States. Lee (2006) performed a study in 2006 called Additional complexities that studied various topics pertaining to assimilation for Asian students in the United States. The researcher conducting the study assessed whether social class, generation and gender played any role in the assimilation process for college students of Asian descent. He found that generational differences certainly played a significant role in assimilation as the older generations had a more difficult time adjusting to societal norms than the younger generation (Lee, 2006). Moreover, the researcher also found that there is a direct relationship between social class and the kind of lifestyle that Asian Americans had lived (Lee, 2006). Lastly, the research also concluded that gender differences played a role in the lifestyle choices of first generation adults, but not second or third generation. The findings of the research tell us that there is indeed a connection between academia and the assimilation process. Although the research does not direct its findings toward academic pressure, it does state that first generation Asian American students experience a difficult time assimilating than their counterparts who are second or third generation.
Furthermore, academic pressure also plays a great role in the psychological health of South Asian immigrant students. Contextualizing Asian American College Student Psychological Health by Liang, Liu and Ngyuen in 2017, emphasized the mental state of students of South Asian descent in American colleges. The study looked to assess whether or not they felt extra stressed, felt out of place or had a difficult time managing the course load throughout the duration of their studies. The findings of the study suggest that students of South Asian descent generally had the same degree of stress as their other ethnic counterparts and did not feel that the course load was unmanageable, but did cite that they experienced a culture shock that is contrary to the principles taught to them by their peers and parents (Liang & Ngyuen, 2017). The students stated that the unspoken rules of college traditions were certainly different from their hometowns and also from what they had grown to expect via media outlet and guardian-like influences. Moreover, the research also found that the overall psychological health of these individuals were relatively stable with the exception of anxiety. Many individuals cited that they are here on visas and/or their stay was contingent upon their academic success as their education was funded by their parents. Assimilating into a new environment, coupled with the fear of doing well, most of the surveyed students did admit to experiencing mild to moderate degrees of stress and anxiety when it came to their academic performance.
This research necessitates a deeper dive into the motives of South Asian students career choices and the motives behind them. The study Learning from the margins by Ngo focused heavily on the educational expectations of South Asian Americans and the corresponding curriculums chosen by them. The researcher surveyed 500 students of South Asian descent to understand their motives for choosing their designated major and the expectations associated with it. The researcher discovered that the primary motive for Asian Americans in choosing their major rested heavily on the expected career earnings as they are expected to start providing for their families from the get go (Ngo, 2006). However, the study also noted that second and third generation Asian Americans did not feel the need to do so and often cited their major of choice as a mixture of interest and anticipated career earnings. The findings of this study suggest that family oriented goals and parental pressure certainly sits atop the minds of Asian students when selecting a career (Ngo, 2006). Very few individuals choose to share their thoughts on work-life balance, flexibility in schedules or anything pertaining to the quality of their life. Their focus was strictly based on economic and parental influences, which tells us that academic pressure is largely in effect when choosing careers.
Analogous to career choices, the study Transnational contexts and the experiences of South Asian Americans by Purkayastha focused on the experiences of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani college students in understanding the differences in their academic path (Purkayastha, 2009). The researcher asked students why they chose to study what they did, what their future aspirations were and whether or not any parallels could be drawn from school back home. An overwhelming number of students cited the need to provide for themselves and their respective families as the pursuit of education (Purkayastha, 2009). Some individuals also cited that they felt that their pursuit of education came from the belief that their parents had instilled in them that an education equates to a better life. When asked if they felt this way, the answers were mixed, some in favor of, and some were against the logic (Purkayastha, 2009). Nevertheless, most students said that they were very happy to pursue the degree or program they were enrolled in and stated that there are very few parallels to their institutions of study at home. They stated that bribery, political bias and lack of proper staff made studying back in their homeland close to impossible (Purkayastha, 2009).They felt that the workload and academic pressure does not vary as academia and the pressure associated with it is common everywhere you go. They felt that academic pressure and the need to do well to earn a living was one of the major reasons for pursuing an education, but felt that this was not a detriment, as it is used to motivate them.
Another study that highlights the deleterious effects of academic pressure is conducted by Chung (2012). The study found that South Asian cultures emphasize success and accomplishment and measure them based on profession and career earnings. The study further found that first generation South Asian students say that they have no problem dealing with the academic stress as the level of stress is worse in their country and see no problem on their long term health or mental health (Chung, 2012).
Perhaps the most relevant study whose findings support the connection between academic pressure and the associated life factors was done by Shen(2014); it measured parental pressure and support toward Asian American’s self efficacy and interest in stereotypical occupations. The findings of the study supported the claim that individuals who felt pressured by their parents chose careers that they weren’t satisfied with. Most students felt that they were emotionally pressured into choosing a profession to appease their parents or that their decision was heavily influenced by expected career earnings (Shen, 2014).
Assimilation, Racism and the Connection with Academia
Academic pressure and its effects are also compounded by the detrimental effects of assimilation. The study Lone Star Muslims, performed by Quraishi in 2006 describes in detail the degree of spoken and unspoken racism experienced by South Asian Muslims in the state of Texas. The study focuses on the challenges and cultural differences experienced by students of the South Asian descent in the colleges housed in Texas. Seventy two percent of the surveyed individuals said that they had experienced some form of racism, or prejudice that directly influenced their feelings of security, safety or education (Quraishi, 2016).
Furthermore, academic pressure also affects areas of deeper-rooted assimilation in one’s personal life as demonstrated by Tsai (2007) in the study Asian Values & Intergenerational Conflict Among Asian American College Students. The study exemplifies the problems faced by Asian American graduates in their work life compared to their personal lives. Sixty eight percent of the individuals cite that they have to maintain two lives, one to assimilate to the unspoken work rules and the other to conform to their personal lives. When asked about cognitive dissonance, one hundred percent of them stated that they would rather have one identity instead of the two that they need to make ends meet.
In another study performed by Singh (2013), it assessed the true degree of assimilation and the kinds of problems South Asian Americans faced. The study determined that children of South Asian parents who grew up in the United States at an early age had an easier time assimilating to the cultural norms than those of their first generation counterparts (Singh, 2013). The study reports that the families who prioritize change in their lives end up having children who have an easier time going through elementary school, high school and adulthood (Singh, 2013).
In addition to the assimilation factors, the personal lives of South Asian individuals are also affected as seen in the study conducted by Zhou (2005). The research conducted highlights the growing pains of the children of immigrant Asians in public schools in the United States. The research demonstrates Asian American children facing high degrees of discomfort during their elementary years as the societal norms are drastically different from school versus at home (Zhou, 2005). The research further indicates that children develop conflicted feelings towards conduct, confidence and guilt. The children often find that what is right at home may not be right at school and vice versa (Zhou, 2005).
Moreover, there is also a strong connection between the perceived achievement level amongst South Asian immigrants in comparison to other ethnicities. Academic profiling, conducted in 2014 demonstrated the academic profiling that occurs amongst ethnicities, particularly Latinos and Asians. Asian Americans are perceived to be “smarter” and expected to dominate the highly competitive majors and professions. The perception is based on precedence that science and math oriented professions are typically dominated by Asians. The findings of this research tell us that Asian Americans are stereotypically expected to perform better than other ethnicities, thereby adding a sense of pressure on them.
Lifestyle, Cultural Norms and Personal Values Relationship to Academic Pressure
Family relations and the degree to which those values are upheld also holds a strong relationship in its relation to academic pressure. The research study performed by Chung (2012) highlights the importance that family relations and family customs have on academic performance amongst Asian Americans. The study concluded that each family places a certain degree of emphasis on a specific career route and a specific amount of pressure to excel in that designated field (Chung, 2012). When surveyed, all the graduates cited academic pressure to succeed in the upper echelons as the primary benchmark to gauge success and purpose in their parents eyes (Chung, 2012). The study also found mixed results amongst the students when gauging family relations and their expectations. Some individuals cited that their academic pressure came from their parents alone, while others cited extended family as the means of academic pressure (Chung, 2012).
Further evidence to demonstrate the point above, the study Breaking the Mindset also sheds light on the mindset that Asian Americans have growing up in their households. The study demonstrates the customs and thought processes that are instilled in South Asian American students as they grow into adulthood. The research found that individuals are strongly encouraged and in some cases given no other option to succeed in the areas of medicine, engineering, finance or business (Ochoa, 2013). When asked about the pressure placed, most students cited that their careers were decided for them prior to the start of their careers; a choice most of the individuals say they regret (Ochoa, 2013). The implications of this study tell us that Asian American students generally feel that they have less autonomy when it comes to their academic life along with their career life and consequently express feelings of regret.
Perera & Chang (2015) also conducted a similar study that assessed the differences in coping with academic stress and interpersonal stress between different ethnicities. The findings suggest that Asian American students definitely cited a greater degree of stress, both in academic studies and interpersonal stress. They addressed areas of concerns that pertained to losing their scholarship, parental obligations and post-graduation plans as the major roots of stress. When compared to Latin American & African American students, the study found that Asian American students were five times more stressed than their counterparts (Perera & Chang, 2015). Worry and generalized anxiety became a constant theme in the lives of the Asian American students that were surveyed.
More importantly, there is also evidence of the detrimental effects of cultural norms in South Asian cultures that have an adverse effect on familial life. The study conducted by Ochoa (2013) focused on the cultural expectations of both male and females in the family sphere and how these expectations create a patriarchal dominance that is unfavorable to both males and females in their married life. The study found that both males and females felt subjugated to their designated roles and completed their education mainly to fulfill those roles in adulthood (Ochoa, 2013).
Another study that focuses on the cultural implications of South Asian students was done by Se-Jeong (2016). The study asked 150 parents of South Asian students what they considered to be successful and the kinds of benchmarks set by them. An overwhelming 82 percent of the individuals said that a good college degree that is tied to a career with stable earnings was the top priority of these parents (Se-Jeong, 2016). Moreover, most of the parents said that they expect their children to do well largely due to the amount of hard work they put in to make ends meet here in the United States (Se-Jeong, 2016). Lastly, the researcher also concluded that the parents largely lived vicariously through their children via the means of accomplishments they could not personally achieve during their youth.
Furthermore, research done by Kodma (2017) also demonstrates that South Asians who were pressured into upper echelon professions by their parents felt that they needed to provide for their families by living a lavish lifestyle. The type of desired lifestyle is directly proportional to the degree of ambition and stress as well. Every individual who reported yes to having grand expectations in school also reported having a great deal of stress (Kodma, 2017). The study concludes by stating that South Asian graduates cited no problem at taking up extra stress if it meant the opportunity to live an extravagant lifestyle.
Moreover, the effects of academia also have a detrimental effect on one’s familial obligations. The research study performed by Mohamad (2018) concluded that individuals who spent late nights at work found that their parenting styles conflicted between the mother and father. The study further concluded that individuals who worked late admitted that their communication styles were ineffective in their marriage (Mohamad, 2018). This indicates that stressful jobs have a direct relationship to parenting inefficiencies and disagreements in parenting styles.
There is also more evidence to suggest that divorce is strongly associated with stressful careers. The study conducted by Pathipati found that of the two hundred individuals surveyed, sixty two percent cited long working hours and stressful jobs as one of the major reasons for divorce (Pathipati, 2018). The study also found that of those individuals who cited work as a reason, they often found that both their marriage and job wound up failing as a result of the inability to commit to one or the other (Pahipati, 2018).
Another area that is affected by academic pressure is martial life, as demonstrated by Wong (2016) in his study Contemporary Trends and Issues. Wong’s research revealed that individuals who cited dissatisfaction with their careers also reported dissatisfaction within their marriage (Wong, 2016). When asked why they chose their career, they often cited parental appeasement or career earnings to be the top reason for doing so. Improper work-life balance therefore does carry a connection to marital satisfaction (Wong, 2016). Academic pressure is also said to be correlated with health risk factors, particularly anxiety and cardiovascular disease. The study addressed diet and lifestyle factors amongst South Asian and Chinese adolescents and found that the individuals who cited school as a major stressor were also the ones that neglected their dietary routine and reported to sleep less than 7 hours on average (Wayment, 2013). Improper diet, lack of sleep and high levels of stress were said to carry a high incidence of cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease (Wayment, 2013). South Asian students, along with Chinese students in the study reported having the highest rates of stress and disturbances to their diet.
Marriage, Stress and Mental Health
One of the more obscure areas that aren’t explored amongst Asian Americans is the topic of counseling for South Asian Americans. Ibrahim & Heuer (2018) performed a study that highlighted the problems with counseling for South Asian Americans, both students and adults within the United States. The study found that over sixty five percent of South Asian Americans are reluctant to go to therapy because the problems they experience are beyond a therapist’s understanding (Ibrahim & Heuer, 2018). The individuals in the study felt that they cannot be honest with clinicians for the fear being judged makes them think twice (Ibrahim & Heuer, 2018).
More importantly, there is also suggestive evidence to demonstrate academic pressure on one’s marital life. Gaines, Clark & Afful (2015) conducted a research study that concluded that high stress professions had a strong correlation to marital problems and discontentment (Gaines, Clark & Afful, 2015). It also found that interethnic marriage amongst Asians displayed the greatest amount of high stress professions and the corresponding levels of discontentment amongst Americans in the United States (Gaines, Clark, & Afful, 2015).
Furthermore, another study conducted in 2003 by Winefield concluded that occupational stress contributed to poor relationships between couples that were dating casually or long term (Winefield, 2003). The study cited that occupational stress made it difficult for individuals of both sexes to maintain a healthy relationship with their significant other (Winefield, 2003). The study further stated that individuals who were in the fields of business, medicine & finance had the most difficult time with their relationships.
Further adding to that point, a study conducted by Ibrahim (2018) demonstrates the unhealthy effects of academic pressure on the health of Asian Americans. The study found that individuals who reported having stressful majors and consequently stressful careers had health issues pertaining to high blood pressure or high sugar levels (Ibrahim, 2018). The study also concluded that they were very anxious and said that most of the surveyed individuals would consider counseling to cope with their stress at some point in the future (Ibrahim, 2018).
In addition to high stress, there are also detrimental effects of academic pressure on the children of those whose parents underwent the same kind of abuse. The study conducted by Addison (2009) demonstrates that children whose parents enforced education heavily found that their grandparents placed the same degree of emphasis on their parents (Addison, 2009). Academic pressure is thus said to have some connection to the generation before. Parenting styles in this case are passed on from generation to generation and play an effect on the academic pressure that is placed on offspring (Addison, 2009).
South Asian Americans are also most prone to prejudice and racism in certain fields and areas of work. The study surveyed twelve hundred Indian and Pakistani Americans around the United States and asked them if they had experienced bouts of racism (Kaduvettoor-Davidson, 2013). Most of the individuals noted that they had come encountered multiple incidents of racism and that these incidents were in retail based locations. Some of the most common places were convenience stores, sales positions and department stores. When asked if there was anything that could have avoided the racism, the students felt that being in upper echelon professions would have yielded more respect (Kaduvettoor-Davidson, 2013). The surveyed students felt that when in positions of power, the race does not matter but in public positions they certainly feel more vulnerable to racism.
Academic pressure also plays an adverse effect on one’s self-esteem. A particular study discusses the effects of academic pressure on self esteem and social awkwardness in adults. The study found that individuals who experienced chronic pressure to do well in school grew up to have low self esteem and felt uncomfortable in public gatherings (Stogner, 2014). The study found that fear of repercussion and being judged constantly held those individuals to behaving in a manner that best fit the environment instead of how they wanted to. The study concluded that feelings of anxiety, regret and awkwardness were common amongst all those who reported having experienced academic pressure from parents (Stogner, 2014).
Academic Pressure on Personal Esteem, Ability and Social Relationships
Work-life is an area that is also largely affected by academic pressure. The study conducted by Wasylenki (2010) demonstrated the adverse effects of academic pressure on South Asian students’ work life after 5-10 years of working. The study found that on average, seventy four percent of the South Asian adults in the workforce enjoyed the income stability that they had but felt that they wanted a career change and were unhappy (Wasylenki, 2010). The study also found that of the surveyed individuals, only twenty two percent would pick the career route that they did.
Zhou (2012) also demonstrated the problems of excessive pressure in the form of academia by analyzing college seniors in high-stress majors to see their feedback. The research concluded that individuals in high stress majors were experiencing difficulties in their interpersonal relationships with friends, family and significant others. They stated that their academic obligations interfered with their personal relationships in a detrimental manner (Zhou, 2012).
The study conducted by David (2016) also highlighted the growing problems with parental expectations and their offspring’s personal choices in marriage, academia and career decisions. Four hundred thirty two students were surveyed about their decisions pertaining to careers, dating, leisurely activities and executive decision making process. Of the total participants, 97 of them were Asian Americans. The study concluded that most of the Asian Americans surveyed responded with their parents having some to heavy degree of influence in all major categories between their teenage to early adulthood years (David, 2016).
Moreover, there are additional studies that demonstrate the long term problems of academic pressure on one’s mental health. Asian-American Students and Academic Students and Academic Achievement by Tran (2011) shows that student under the age of eighteen whose academic course of track have been chosen by their parents reported having greater levels of social anxiety, lower self esteem and feelings of uncertainty in every aspect of their personal life.
Another study exemplifies the same phenomenon, but is restricted to high school students only. I’m watching your Group by Ochoa (2013) demonstrated that high school students whose academic choices have been influenced, or instructed by their parents felt that they did not have autonomy in their decisions. Moreover, the same high school students also reported that they felt the need to go along with their parents choices to prevent disappointment (Ochoa, 2013).
More importantly, there also seems to exist a connection between academic pressure and parenting styles. A study conducted by Batool (2014) demonstrated that parents who exercised an authoritative parenting style were more likely to place pressure on their children for academia. The study additionally found that authoritative parenting styles also led to an increase in avoidant tendencies in their offspring (Batool, 2014).
Other studies have also demonstrated the long term effects of academic pressure on South American studies by measuring their self-reported happiness factor over the course of 4 years post-graduation. The study concluded that Asian Americans reported being more content when following their own volitions after having deviated from their parental wishes (Juang, 2011). They did state that they were conflicted but felt that they should’ve done it earlier (Juang, 2011).
Academic pressure also plays a role on the ability to form meaningful personal relationships. The research study done by Bartlett (2013) displays the long term effects on friendships that academic pressure carries over the course of a 15 year period. The study assessed middle aged Asian Americans ability to form and keep meaningful relationships with their friends. The study concluded that while they had no problem creating friendships with individuals from school or at work, they had trouble forming meaningful relationships (Bartlett, 2013). When asked why they thought this to be the case, they felt that they didn’t know how to readily express their feelings in a manner that was appropriate.
Last, but not least, there is also suggestive evidence of feelings of resentment that grows from a significant population that had faced pressure in the form of academia. Sakamoto conducted a study to understand Asian Americans attitudes towards the academic pressure that they had faced as a child. Sixty-seven percent stated that they did feel some degree of resentment toward their parents but stated that they would not confront them about it as it would lead to unnecessary conflict (Sakamoto).
Academic pressure also affects the ability of individuals personal experiences and their ability to share it with those that they love. In the study conducted by Perry (2016), Asian students were asked to assess their ability to communicate with other students and significant others. The study revealed that Asian students who grew up introverted and under academic pressure had difficulties expressing themselves (Perry, 2016). The study also revealed that the students felt that their communication patterns were hindered by their fear of shame and guilt (Perry, 2016).
Analogous to the study above, Carrera conducted a study (2014) that assessed shame, guilt and depression among Asian Americans. The study found that an overwhelming seventy percent of the students expressed that feelings of guilt, shame and perfectionistic traits were emphasized in their upbringing (Carrera, 2014).They also stated that these feelings predominantly started with educational and cultural expectations from elementary school to youth (Carrera, 2014).
Shame and guilt are also detrimental outcomes of Asian student’s deep rooted personalities as witnessed in the study Avoiding Shame and Guilt by Batson (2018). The study addressed the detrimental effects of prolonged academic pressure and the deep rooted feelings of guilt and shame that resulted in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, fits of rage and denial. The study found that individuals who grew up with excessive means of punishment for not living upto educational standards found themselves using unhealthy mechanisms of coping.
A similar phenomenon was also demonstrated by Saban & Saricelik (2018) in their study pertaining to the nuances of an introverted child. The study concluded that children with introverted personalities were more likely to have experienced authoritative parenting styles that emphasized discipline and a clear means of punishment if the rules were broken (Saban & Saricelik, 2018). The study also noted that these individuals also felt that their personalities were largely shaped due to the experiences and instructions they had received as a child (Saban & Saricelik, 2018).
Another area of concern are the non-cognitive psychological processes that affect academic achievement. Lee (2017) conducted a study that measured the external factors that affect academic performance in students. Lee found that parental pressure, time spent studying and feelings of guilt and shame served as the top motivators of academic performance. The study also emphasized peer pressure as one of the major components that affected academic achievement as well.
Academic achievement also brings into question whether or not Asian Americans work so hard because they have to. The study Does the Ivy League Discriminate by Musto (2016) demonstrates the quota system that exists in order to create a diverse profile in each of their graduating class. In doing so, the study reveals that Asians must compete against each other to fill the limited number of seats that are reserved for Asians only (Musto, 2016). The study further concludes that Asians have the highest cumulative grades and therefore are usually expected to attain perfect to near perfect grades in comparison to the other candidates of different ethnicities (Musto, 2016.)
Analogous to the study above, Suinn (2017) conducted a study that measured Asian American culture and its effects on health, school achievement and counseling. The study found that Asian Americans are traditionally bound to family values that create expectations that are different from the ones created by their peers in academic settings (Suin, 2010). The clash between the two expectations creates anxiety, imbalance and a sense of dual living standards that are overwhelming (Suin, 2010)
Moreover, an interesting phenomenon was studied by Mahajan (2017) to see whether birth order affected academic achievement amongst the Asian population. The study concluded that Asian Americans who were first in birth order faced the greatest amount of academic pressure (Mahajan, 2007). The research also concluded that the oldest children in the family faced the greatest amount of pressure to provide for the family and serve as an example to the other children that came after them (Mahajan, 2007).
Academic achievement also plays a key role in the activity of civic engagement of Asian college students. The study found that students who were pressured to do well in academia did not feel as strongly tied to participate in activities pertaining to civic engagement or school spirit (Wray-Lake, 2017). The study also concluded that students who faced academic pressure also cited that they had no available time that could be devoted to civic duties (Wray-Lake, 2017).
Peer Pressure is also an area that is deeply affected by academic achievement. A study conducted by Kim (2008) found that peer pressure was a big determinant of cognitive dissonance amongst Asian American college students (Kim, 2008). The study found that students who felt the need to live two lives to satisfy their relationship with their parents and friends experienced the greatest amount of cognitive dissonance (Kim, 2008).
The culmination of the research analysis demonstrates that academia certainly plays a strong connection with the outcome of job satisfaction, assimilation and marriage life amongst South Asian individuals in the United States. There exists a clear relationship between academic pressure from parental influence and the types of careers chosen by South Asian graduates in the United States. Moreover, this is also sufficient research to suggest that generational differences also play a role in the degree of influence that individuals hold on career choices. The research literature also provides insight into the detrimental effects that academic pressure has on one’s mental health. Together, there is sufficient evidence to support the connection between academic pressure and the detrimental effects it has on one’s personal lifestyle amongst South Asian adults.
Research Method and Procedures
The research study performed to analyze the connection between academic pressure and lifestyle factors in Asian American graduates. To determine a connection, it was imperative to perform a detailed analysis of the existing literature that supports the existence of a connection, or lack thereof. The analysis is broken into four parts: career satisfaction, marital satisfaction, assimilation & quality of personal mental health.
Google Scholar was the primary search engine used to look for peer reviewed journals pertaining to the career paths amongst Asian American graduates. The search terms used were: academic pressure in Asian Americans, career paths of Asian Americans, academia in Asian graduates, job satisfaction in Asian Americans, career problems amongst Asian Americans. The search results returned over two hundred studies, but the sorting process required most of the articles to be thrown out as it did not pertain to the topic of careers in their relation to academic pressure. After meticulous review of the content of the studies, nineteen studies were chosen, and of which seven were removed because they were older than ten years. The chosen studies were then analyzed, studied and reviewed in the literature review to substantiate the connection between career satisfaction amongst Asian Americans and academic pressure. All of the chosen studies demonstrated a strong connection between career disappointment and its relation to the role academia played in their decision to choose that career.
Google Scholar was also used to find peer reviewed journals pertaining to the problems faced with assimilation and its relation to the academic and cultural pressure. The terms used to search for articles were: Assimilation amongst Asian students, Assimilating as immigrant students, Assimilation in south Asian college students, South Asian immigrants and South Asian immigrants in American colleges. The results returned about seventy articles, with only a few pertaining to South Asian immigrants and their experiences. As a result, California Southern’s library database services were used. ProQuest Psychology had an abundant number of peer reviewed articles that returned about one hundred and forty articles; of which, twelve of them detailed in great length the connection between implicit cultural norms in South Asian culture and the troubles it caused South Asian college students in their assimilation process in the United States.
Proquest Psychology and Psychiatry Online were used to query the database for peer reviewed journal articles pertaining to marital satisfaction amongst South Asian adults in its relation to childhood academic pressure. The keywords used were : Marital Satisfaction amongst Millennials, Marriage in South Asian cultures, Marriage and Academics in South Asian students, South Asian Marriages, Academic pressure and South Asian graduates, Asians overachievement and marital relations in relation to academic stress. The queries returned a total of seventy four articles, of which fourteen were selected based on the relevance to the topic at hand.
Moreover, Proquest Psychology and Google scholar were also used to locate articles pertaining to mental health and personal satisfaction in its relation to academic pressure amongst Asian Americans. The terms searched were: Mental health amongst Asian Americans, Academic stress amongst Asian Americans, Anxiety in Asian Americans, Stress & Anxiety in College Students and Counseling in Asian Americans. The search result returned back two hundred forty articles, of which eleven were selected based on relevance and date of publication. Overall, a total of fifty peer reviewed articles were used in the literature review, broken down into its’ respective subsections. The study was an analysis of previous literature and therefore no actual participants were used for the scope of this study. Only Google Scholar, Psycnet & Psychiatry online were used to pick the peer reviewed journals.
The literature review was organized into four sub chapters that were broken down by career satisfaction, assimilation, marital satisfaction & mental health prowess. The first group of studies stressed the problems of academic pressure on career satisfaction and were prioritized by relevance to the research topic and then by date of publication. The studies were reviewed in terms of research purpose and the conclusion of each study in relation to the subtopic. Each subsection includes peer-reviewed articles that provides conclusive evidence of academic pressure and its detrimental connection to adverse lifestyle factors. The articles were further organized into two parts: the procedure of the reviewed study and the conclusion of the study as it relates to the overall topic of academic and its influence on either marriage, job satisfaction, personal well being or assimilation.
The proposed connection between academic pressure and the proposed lifestyle factors were determined by the closeness in match to the themes we are searching for. The data from the research studies were looking to find resemblance in the conclusions pertaining to problems with assimilation, marriage dissatisfaction, work-life imbalance and poor mental health in their relationship to childhood and adolescent academic pressure. The studies analyzed were narrowed down by the themes of research and then by the similarity of the research design. Many key studies were omitted for several reasons pertaining to sample size, ethnicity of the study, and the location of the study. Studies with sample sizes with less than 50 students or graduates were automatically omitted. Furthermore, studies that included ethnic individuals who were NOT of Asian or South Asian descent were also excluded.
The studied used to analyze marriage dissatisfaction included men and women of South Asian descent who were married for at least five years and were open to self-reported accounts of their marriage life. The only studies used to prove a connection between marriage dissatisfaction and academic pressure were those that included South Asian Americans who have attended college in the United States, faced some degree of academic pressure as a child and reported feelings of dissatisfaction in their marriage.
Next, the theme of assimilation and the problems faced by South Asian Americans were analyzed by looking for studies that included Asian immigrants who experienced difficulties assimilating to their environment in the United States. Furthermore, studies that included individuals who were not born in the United States were also used to contrast their lives and experiences to those who did. Lastly, the studies that had individuals who experienced pressure in the form of academia from their parents and environmental peer pressure were used to analyze the theme of assimilation.
Methodological Assumptions and Limitations
The conclusions of this study relies heavily on the findings of the research studies in the literature review. These studies that were reviewed all have different sample sizes and are therefore not unanimous in comparison. Furthermore, the studies summarized do not specify the breakdown of males and females as gender specific roles play a huge factor in South Asian cultures. Another limitation of the study rests within the classification of Asian and sub Asian populations. Several of the studies used denote that their participants were of Asian descent, but does not specify which sub-classification they belong to. This makes the connection between academic pressure and lifestyle factors amongst South Asians extend to a broader category that is inclusive of the entire Asian population.
In addition to errors with sample and design, twenty-three of the fifty studies relied on self-reported responses when assessing the relationship between the aforementioned lifestyle factors. These responses are subject to personal bias, insufficient recollection of memory and hindsight bias. Moreover, the studies also have not been measured across the same quantifiable response spectrum, instead they are variably different based on the design of the study. Lastly, the conclusions of the research studies do not always apply to the research questions that were addressed in chapter one.
Other limitations of the study include the inability to conduct an independent study with the ability to sample the desired participants and ask questions that only pertain to the research questions. The lack of a control group and a designated questionnaire creates several confounding variables that weakens the strength of the connection between academia and lifestyle factors. If these limitations were addressed, the study could certainly be stronger and more complete.
RQ1. What is the relationship between being a South Asian immigrant and assimilation in the college environment. The findings of the research study are vast and extensive. First and foremost, there is a strong detrimental relationship between assimilation and being a South Asian immigrant. This conclusion can be drawn after reviewing the literature that demonstrates the difficulties that South Asians experienced as immigrants in the United States. Lone Star Muslims by Quarishi (2006) highlights the racial inequalities and unspoken racism that South Asian Muslims have faced in the state of Texas. These experiences with racism directly influenced the reported immigrants’ ability to assimilate into their neighborhood community and ever grow acclimated. This connection is also demonstrated by Tsai (2007) in which Asian immigrants who have come to the country within three years of enrollment faced a difficult time making friends and meaningful connections in college. Singh (2013) and Zhou (2005) also highlighted the connection by showcasing the growing pains that children and adolescents of South Asian descents faced during their early immigration years in various public schools across the United States. The studies conducted by Singh (2013) and Zhou (2005) further elaborated on the duality of living as an Asian at home and an American at school, thereby making it difficult to assimilate as the two norms routinely clashed and created confusion in their early years. Similarly, the study conducted by Mohamad (2018) also demonstrated the problems of polar opposite lives that Asian students have to live due to the conflicting cultural norms, making assimilation very difficult. Racism based on perceived achievement was another experience that made assimilation difficult for South Asian immigrants in the United States as seen in the study Academic profiling (Ochoa, 2013.) The study Academic profiling showed that Asian students who newly emigrated to the country were approached in class only in regards to questions pertaining to academics instead of social gatherings. This made the assimilation process far more difficult and was an indirect form of racism based on their race according to the study Academic profiling (Ochoa, 2013.) After reviewing these literature studies, it is apparent that an inverse relationship exists between assimilation and being of South Asian descent. As hypothesized, there is indeed a connection between South Asian graduates and their inability to assimilate to the societal norms of their peers during college.
RQ2.What role, if any, does academic pressure play on career choice selection for South Asian students? The next group of findings have to do with the role academic pressure plays on career satisfaction for South Asian graduates of the United States. Academic pressure plays a huge role in the career choice selection along with career satisfaction amongst South Asian students. The evidence for this connection can be seen in the study performed by Chung (2012). In this study, Chung describes that Asian American children are taught to pursue a specific career route that is usually considered one of the upper echelon fields of study. Moreover, the emotional pressure and expectation placed is very daunting for most children who are given that degree of responsibility as reported in the study. These graduates grow up to resent their careers and felt that they pursued it in part because of the perceived glory that was instilled since childhood (Chung, 2012). Furthermore, additional studies such as Breaking the Mindset (2013) and Academic Coping (Chang, 2015) demonstrate the ethnic social engineering that occurs in most South Asian households. They are given less autonomy and are expected to follow a blueprint of “success” that will eventually lead to a career path filled with riches and a status quo (Ochoa, 2013.) These expectations create unrealistic goals and often end up leading to disgruntled career paths amongst the South Asian community. Lastly, there is so sufficient evidence to suggest that divorce is closely related to stressful careers (Pahthipati, 2018) The study conducted by Pahipathi (2018) demonstrates the detriments of choosing stressful careers from a marital perspective. Sixty two percent of the surveyed individuals cited a stressful job as one of the major causes of divorce. More evidence of this can also be seen in the study conducted by Gasman (2011) in which Asian Americans are said to have routinely held the top earning professions for the past nine years and running. Similar to the study conducted by Gasman, Liang & Ngyuen (2017) performed a study that suggested that individuals of South Asian descent were taught at an early age that their purpose for emigrating to the United States had to do with the attainment of a high paying career. Last, but not least, the study conducted by Wong (2016) and Wayment (2013) both exemplify the self-reported responses of berated Asian American adults who felt that their career choices came out of parental appeasement and hopes of top earning careers without putting thought to student loans. After reviewing the evidence from all of the aforementioned studies, the hypothesis is correct; there is indeed a detrimental effect on South Asian student’s career choices.
RQ3.What difficulties do South Asian students face in formulating meaningful relationships at college with their peers?Next, the remaining findings also stem into the inability to form meaningful personal and social relationships amongst South Asian adults. Studies performed by Zhou (2012) and David (2016) demonstrates the correlation between students poor communication skills and their inability to form meaningful relationships with excessive hours of study and academic perfectionist tendencies. Both studies done by Zhou (2012) and David (2016) showed that students of Asian descent, who spent hours perfecting their craft at school, came from families who emphasized education as a priority and also reported having a difficult time making friends and maintaining social relationships. Moreover, personal decision making skills were said to be thwarted as a result of excessive academic pressure and lack of autonomy on personal preferences such as hobbies, food and entertainment (David, 2016.) The same phenomena is exemplified by the study conducted by Ochoa (2013) and Tran (2011) in which person self-esteem and ability to make firm decisions were low and in some reported cases, nonexistent. Similarly, another study conducted by Batool (2014) found that children of Asian descent, who have been parented via an authoritative style were likely to develop avoidant personalities and practice antisocial behavior. This is also especially demonstrated in the study conducted by Bartlett (2013) where South Asian Americans who underwent excessive academic pressure saw troubles with their friendships in adulthood. Moreover, there is also suggestive evidence to show that academic pressure stunts one’s ability to be expressive and honest with their feelings and communication patterns (Perry, 2016). Individuals of South Asian descent reported having felt the need to repress their thoughts or behaviors in fear of guilt or shame. This is also evident in another study conducted by Carrera (2014) that demonstrated the perfectionist traits in individuals of South Asian descent were highest amongst those who were constantly expected to do well in school and also experienced the most amount of guilt and shame, to their detriment. These feelings of excessive guilt and shame result in closed personalities that often do not communicate their beliefs and aversions, resulting in personal problems with those they love. Last, but certainly not the least, unhealthy coping mechanisms and fits of rage are associated with heavy feelings of guilt and shame. The study conducted by Batson (2018) showcased the detrimental connection between prolonged academic guilt and fear with unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, aggression and distortion of reality. The totality of these research conclusions demonstrate that the hypothesis that South Asian students face difficulties in the areas of social bonding activities which prevents them from forming meaningful relationships with peers is correct.
RQ4. What is the psychological impact of the core cultural values amongst South Asian students? The next conclusive statement that can be drawn from this study pertains to the cultural norms and laws in the South Asian culture itself. Juang (2011) highlights the cultural norms present in South Asian culture in its relation to academic achievement. The study details the degree that academic achievement holds in the families of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent. The study sheds light on the cultural implications of academia and the unspoken disappointment that exists in these cultures for individuals who do not do dwell in their respective academic concentration, which creates anxiety and heightened levels of stress if the expectations are not met. Moreover, economic stability is a hallmark definition of success amongst the South Asian community. Purpose and stability are closely related to high-paying profession such as medicine, law, engineering and finance amongst South Asian Americans (Agarwal, 2014.) As a result, lower economic paying jobs are correlated with shame within the South Asian cultures (Agarwal, 2014.) There is also ample evidence to suggest that South Asian students have the extra burden to do well in college because of the difficulty their parents experienced emigrating to a new country in pursuit of a better life (Se-Jeong, 2016.) As a result, children of South Asian parents see education as a do or die matter in hopes of bringing back some of the glory their parents had in their respective hometowns. This cultural phenomenon is also demonstrated in the study done by Kodma (2017) which exemplifies the benchmark that is set by South Asian cultures. Kodma stated that Asian American graduates are expected to live a lavish a life and provide for themselves and their spouses as an unspoken golden rule. More evidence of the connection between the two can be seen in the study performed by Owens (2017) which highlights the stark difference between the standards expected of children of Caucasian descent versus their Asian counterparts. Sakamoto (2017) in his study Asian Americans: Contemporary Trends and Issues highlights this exact same phenomena when describing the difference between Asian parents in their academic expectation of their children versus all other ethnic races in the United States. Last, but not least there is ample evidence to also suggest that direct and verbal pressure is put on children of Asian descent as a means of incentive driven parenting as demonstrated by Wray-Lake (2017) in his study. Lastly, Wasylenki (2010) depicts the stark differences in the cultural upbringing of both males and females in Asian cultures versus American cultures in the public and private spheres of school and home. These cultural norms and values amongst the South Asian cultures create an unhealthy connection between academic pressure and their core educational values. This showcases the evidence that South Asian students do indeed feel the need to uphold cultural and communal family obligations.
Other intangible areas that academic pressure affects involve the quality of mental health amongst the South Asian graduate community in the United States. Individuals of South Asian descent in the United States have experienced problems accessing, admitting and processing conflicted mental health issues largely due to the social stigma that exists in the South Asian community. Most of the first-generation individuals who were surveyed reported that they did not seek the help of a therapist or a psychologist because those services were perceived to be needed only for psychiatric disorders (Suinn, 2017.) Cognitive dissonance is another byproduct of academic pressure that South Asian graduates deal with, but often do not do anything about it as they feel that their conflict state of emotion is to be dealt with personally, without the interference of anyone else (Kim, 2008.) In addition, there is also evidence of deep rooted depression and unhappiness with their lifestyles amongst thirty seven percent of surveyed Asian Americans. Marriage is another heavily impacted area by academic pressure amongst Asian Americans. Saban (2018) demonstrates the problems that South Asian adults face in their marriage life as a result of long working hours and poor work-life balance. The educational years often remove the ability to connect with others and empathize with others, especially their significant other as demonstrated in the study done by Larson (2017).
RQ5. To what extent does societal pressure influence South Asian students decisions in picking a career choice? The research literature shows a strong relationship between societal pressure in the form of parents and extended family and the decision to choose a career path amongst Asian Americans. Tsai (2007) demonstrates in her study the extent to which family members of South Asian families largely influence their relative’s career path. The study goes to onto highlight the conflicted messages that Asian students receive from public schools versus what is told to them by their parents (Tsai, 2007.) Shen (2014) also highlights a similar phenomenon in parental pressure and the student’s personal self-efficacy and decision making skills towards a career. The study interestingly elaborates on the fact that societal pressure in the form of friends and advertisements do not influence their decision as much as parental influence does. Moreover, the study conducted by Addison (2009) demonstrates the social problems that Asian Americans as a result of their academic pressure placed on them by their parents. While the study doesn’t focus on the societal factors that influence their career choice directly, it does focus on the newfound problems that arise as a result of the pressure that is exerted on them from home. Similarly, Gaines (2015) demonstrates the societal problems that arise when a particular career path leads to finding someone of a different ethnicity. The study cites that often times, college majors and careers dictate who you end up meeting, which cause problems in the societal sphere of ethnic obligations if the individual is not of the same South Asian descent (Gaines, 2015.) Along with the studies that also support the connection from research question two, there does indeed seem to be a strong relationship between pressure and South Asian students decision to choose their careers, however the pressure is not societal in nature, but familial.
Overall, the study found a connection between academic pressure and the associated lifestyle factors within Asian Americans. The literature review analyzed in the prior sections highlights the degree to which academic pressure affects work-life balance, marital relationships, assimilation and mental health. The study aimed to find the connection between the aforementioned factors and succeeded in doing so. The reviewed literature provides substantial evidence in demonstrating the detrimental effects that child pressure in the form of academia has on their adult life amongst South Asian communities. Martial relationships are often stunted in their growth as academic pressure in childhood has a connection to the inability to communicate feelings in adulthood amongst South Asian Americans. Furthermore, the research also exemplifies the extent to which one’s mental health is affected by the presence of direct and indirect practices of academic pressure. Last, but not least, the results of the study indicate this connection to be the strongest amongst first generation immigrants of South Asian descent in the United States.
The totality of the research reviewed shows us the many detrimental connections between academic pressure and adult lifestyles amongst South Asian Americans. Many South Asian Americans are unhappy with their high-stress careers and regret choosing them as they feel they were influenced at a young age to pursue that specific path (Chung, 2012) There also exists a clear connection between the inability or difficulty to assimilate to American culture amongst South Asian Americans as a result of the cultural norms and academic expectations that are set on them from early childhood (Singh, 2013.) Additionally, there also exists a deep connection between childhood academic pressure and the inability to form meaningful relationships with others as an adult as showcased by the many literature reviews. Last, but not least, there certainly exists a relationship between poor mental health and academic pressure as witnessed by the studies that were reviewed amongst college students of South Asian descent. The findings suggest that there are clear adverse effects of academic pressure placed by parents, cultural and societal standards and other intangibles that affect one’s marriage, job satisfaction, personal relationships and most of all, self-reported happiness.
Direction for Future Research
The research that was reviewed provided a clear perspective on the detriments of childhood pressure in the form of academia and the resulting effects in adulthood amongst the South Asian community in the United States. While this is true, there is very little research that aims to solve these problems in both the areas of acknowledgment and initiatives to alleviate some of these problems. Further research in the areas of community programs or federal grants to bridge the culture gap need to be done to fix some of these problems. Moreover, there seems to exist a great deal of pressure stemming from the parental level and therefore they need to be informed on the long term effects of academia as demonstrated in the literature above. Placing a greater emphasis on these areas can only bring these detrimental relationships come to surface and help parents change their behavior and/or expectations. Further research on the extensive nature of academic pressure in its relation to life-long feelings of shame and low self-esteem should also be studied. These are the areas that will shed a holistic light on the deep rooted problems that affect the South Asian community as adults, even though the pressure placed on them occurs mostly during childhood and adolescence.
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