PERSONALITY AND CULTURAL DETERMINANTS OF SOCIAL ANXIETY IN ASIAN AMERICANS
Lee, Jung-Eun Jenny
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It has been well documented that social anxiety is a complex psychological phenomenon, which is linked to personality traits and socio-environmental factors. In addition, acculturation processes are associated with Asian Americans' experience of social anxiety. The purpose of this study was to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of social anxiety by integrating personality and cultural factors that can affect social anxiety in Asian Americans. The Five-Factor Theory of personality (FFT; McCrae & Costa, 1996, 2008) served as the basis for a comprehensive model, which included the Big Five traits as basic tendencies and bicultural identity integration and acculturation/enculturation as characteristic adaptations that impact social anxiety. Asian Americans (N = 255) from across the United States responded to an on-line survey that included: a demographic questionnaire, the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS; Mattick & Clarke, 1998), the Big Five Inventory (BFI; Benet-Martínez & John, 1998), the Asian American Multidimensional Acculturation Scale (AAMAS; Chung, Kim, & Abreu, 2004), and the Bicultural Identity Integration Scale (BIIS-1; Benet-Martínez, 2003a). Structural equations modeling and hierarchical multiple regression were used to test the study hypotheses. As hypothesized, the acculturation/enculturation (AAMAS) and bicultural identity integration (BII) constructs were fairly independent. Contrary to expectations, acculturation (AAMAS-EA) was as good a predictor of social anxiety as perceptions of conflict between one's two cultures (BII-C). BII Conflict, but not BII Distance (BII-D) or acculturation/enculturation, contributed incremental prediction of social anxiety beyond the Big Five traits. An integrated model, in which selected Big Five traits predicted acculturation/enculturation and bicultural identity integration, which, in turn, predicted social anxiety, fit the data well. For example, Neuroticism had both direct and indirect effects on social anxiety via BII Conflict. The findings showed the importance of taking into account both personality traits and cultural factors when predicting social anxiety in Asian American populations. In addition, the findings indicated that the concept of bicultural identity may provide incremental value in understanding social anxiety beyond traditional acculturation concepts. Clinical implications and limitations of the study were discussed. Consideration of an integrated approach in social anxiety research was advocated.