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Undergraduate Researchers

Grace Calvin

Grace Calvin, Psychology

“Acculturation Stress, Psychological Well-Being, and Parenting among Chinese Immigrant Families”

Over one third of America’s immigrant population is from Asia and a large and growing portion are of Chinese descent. It is crucial that the acculturation experiences of this growing population are studied and understood in order to promote positive, and decrease negative, outcomes in these families. Although prior research shows that immigrant parents’ acculturation experiences and psychological well-being are associated with their parenting styles, the specific pathways among these variables are not well understood. To extend the existing literature, the current project aims to understand the predictive role of the acculturation experiences of Chinese immigrant mothers on their parenting styles and practices towards their young children, through their psychological well-being. We predict that a negative acculturation experience will be positively associated with poorer psychological well-being, which will, in turn, be associated with more maladaptive parenting styles and practices. Findings from this study will shed light on risk and protective factors in the parenting of the children of Chinese immigrants.

How did you find your mentor for year research, scholarship, or artistic project?
My first semester at UMBC, I took Cultural Psychology and was approached by one of Dr. Cheah’s graduate students within that course. Knowing that it would be good for me as a young academic to get involved in research, I decided to join the lab.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
Although I find cultural psychology and child development fascinating, my true interest lies in abnormal and clinical psychology. Given my resources and position, I have access to a wealth of data and equipment in Dr. Cheah’s lab, including a mental wellbeing evaluation we do as a regular part of the larger study. I decided to branch out a little to discern the links between parenting, mental health, and acculturation experience.

Is this your first independent research project?
Yes, this is my first independent research experience in terms of running statistical analyses and presenting my findings. I had a project in my cultural psychology course that involved interviewing an immigrant to the US and analyzing the interview in light of the course material. I loved that experience, and I am excited to go a little farther in the course of my Undergraduate Research Award (URA).

Do you get course credit for this work?
I have been receiving departmental course credit for my work in Dr. Cheah’s lab, and I plan to enroll in the Honors College research course as I complete my URA experience.

How much time do you put into it?
I spend as many as ten hours each week on Dr. Cheah’s lab needs. I will probably spend a little more time than that as I work to complete the URA.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award program?
Dr. Cheah suggested I apply, as I have put a great deal of time and energy into her research project and she felt I would be a good candidate. I am very appreciative of her support, and I would not have attempted this without her!

What academic background did you have before you applied for the URA?
I had worked in the lab for 11 months when I decided to apply, and I have completed many psychology and honors courses that I believe have prepared me for this.

Was the application difficult to do?
Not really. I looked through the library databases for information regarding the links I was interested in studying, determined that not much had been done to discern the aforementioned connections, and pieced together what the field has done thus far. That was the hard part, after that it was just combining and learning to express my ideas and findings.

How much did your mentor help you with the application?
Dr. Cheah was very helpful in the course of my application. I presented to her a very rough draft, and she gently suggested improvements while guiding me to understand how best to voice the application. After bouncing our ideas and experience back and forth, and a lot of learning, I had a complete application.

What has been the hardest part about your research?
It’s only just beginning, but I think the most daunting thing for me is sifting through all of the work that has been done to get ample background understanding. One must tread lightly and be aware of biases and misunderstandings, and to never trust one single account. I feel I have a lot of work to do in the coming months, as I make sure I know where the field lies at present.

What was the most unexpected thing?
As far as I can tell, cultural psychology, being a very young discipline, is untraveled, not well understood, and very messy. Although I know this going in, I imagine it will present many difficult to resolve issues as I move forward.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
As I complete the research psychology courses, Psychology 331 and 332, my lab experience helps me give names to the things I must learn and understand. It gives me a deep understanding of the papers I read and the work that I do in all of my psychology and science courses. I believe my research process gives me an advantage in my courses.

What else are you involved in on campus?
I am an officer in SGA’s executive branch, and in that position I serve on a number of committees and work with extraordinary people to make a difference for our campus. I am also involved with some clubs on occasion.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
It seems really scary and impossible and not for you, but given appropriate motivation and a good mentor for support, it is very doable. If you have an idea, go for it! Chances are, your passion will attract someone and you will easily be on your way towards a publication and a lot of fun.

What are your career goals?
My present dream is to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and to work with mentally and developmentally abnormal adolescents in an outpatient (non-institutional) setting. In the course of earning my Ph.D., I hope to contribute to the small but growing pool of knowledge about music’s impact on the behaviors of the mentally ill.