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Psychology  2018 

Close Friendships and Mental Health of Korean American Adolescents: The Moderating Effect of Personality

DOI: 10.4236/psych.2018.91007, PP. 101-113

Keywords: Close Friendship, Korean American Adolescents, Mental Health, Personality

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Abstract:

During adolescence, the youth increasingly rely on peers for intimacy and support. Since traditional Korean values emphasize the centrality of the family, this shift in emotional attachment may be especially challenging for Korean American youth. However, it is not known whether adolescents who lack a supportive close friendship may be at greater risk for mental health problems. The aims of this study were to determine whether the quality of the adolescents’ closest friendship is associated with the mental health of Korean American adolescents, and whether specific personality traits of the youth may moderate any association between the quality of their friendships and their mental health problems. This cross-sectional study included 138 Korean American adolescents from community settings in California. A demographic questionnaire, the Relationship Quality Questionnaire, the NEO Five-Factor Inventory-3, and the Youth Self Report were completed by adolescents. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to examine the aims. Quality of the closest friendship was not a significant predictor of mental health problems for youth in general. However, the personality trait of agreeableness did predict better mental health. Agreeableness also showed a moderating effect, indicating that for youth who had less agreeable, more antagonistic personalities, a high quality relationship with their best friend was associated with fewer mental health problems. Longer residence in the U.S. was also related to better mental health. Findings suggest the need for early identification of youth who have poor relationships with close friends or a more antagonistic personality. It may be especially important to provide supportive mental health interventions for Korean American adolescents with these combined risks.

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