UCLA: New Issue of AAPI Nexus on “Beyond the ‘Whiz Kid’ Stereotype: New Research on Asian American and Pacific Islander Youth”
Melany Dela Cruz-Viesca, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Immediate Use
November 30, 2006
Beyond the ‘Whiz Kid’ Stereotype:
New Research on Asian American and Pacific Islander Youth
UCLA Asian American Studies Center – Asian American youth are often portrayed as obedient whiz kids who excel academically. This simplistic picture, however, ignores the increasing number of Asian American and Pacific Islander youth who are struggling with school and the juvenile justice system. The current issue of AAPI Nexus (4:2), entitled “Youth Facing Risks,” features new research on youth violence, delinquency and other risk factors facing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth.
While much research has gone into youth violence in the United States, observes guest editor Karen Umemoto, Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, little is known about AAPI youth.
However, she says, “the available information shows that certain groups face serious problems.”
Samoan youth in Hawai`i, for example, report higher rates on indicators of high-risk behavior, including weapons possession, involvement in physical fights and substance abuse. In the article “You got to do so much to actually make it,” researchers David Tokiharu Mayeda, Lisa Pasko and Meda Chesney-Lind point to factors such as unequal gender roles, biases in schools and the lack of positive role models as critical issues for Samoan youth.
The article “Profiling Incarcerated Asian and Pacific Islander Youth” by Isami Arifuku, Delores D. Peacock and Caroline Glesmann further examines AAPI juvenile crime, with a focus on California. While AAPIs constitute only 5 percent of incarcerated youth in the state, the authors found that some ethnicities were overrepresented in the California juvenile justice system. These overrepresented ethnicities, note the authors, comprise groups that immigrated into the U.S. after the mid-1970s.
These demographic differences, writes Umemoto, illustrate the importance of “designing culturally appropriate prevention and intervention strategies.” Unfortunately, she continues, most of the policies that aim to curb violence and delinquency “lack grounded understandings of the problem.”
The article “Self-Reported Rates and Risk Factors of Cambodian, Chinese, Lao/Mien and Vietnamese Youth” by Thao N. Le and Judy L. Wallen contributes to this understanding by exploring the factors that place this population at risk for serious violence. Risk factors include difficulties in acculturation, second-generation status, and inconsistent parental supervision and discipline.
Ahn-Luu T. Huynh-Hohnbaum further emphasizes the importance of the home environment in “The Role of the Family in Asian American Delinquency.” She finds that family structure was a predictive factor for AAPI involvement in juvenile delinquency. Parental monitoring, in particular, served to protect youth from involvement in delinquent acts against persons and property.
To date, however, the few policies aimed at addressing issues of AAPI juvenile crime neglect these important cultural factors. Such misdirected policies are discussed in the article “Asian Americans on the Streets” by James Diego Vigil, Tomson H. Nguyen, and Jesse Cheng. Focusing on Vietnamese and Cambodian youth gangs in California, the authors propose prevention and intervention strategies that involve the community and schools.
“Policies (should) take into account the nuanced differences between Asian communities,” write the authors. These include, for example, culturally different parenting and communication styles and the availability of various social institutions within the ethnic communities.
Together, the articles in this special issue of AAPI Nexus belie the simplistic “whiz kid” stereotypes. “These articles,” says Umemoto, “contribute to the critical conversation on the risks, challenges, and opportunities facing AAPI youth.”
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