May 2019 Spotlight, Yoonsun Choi, PhD

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Yoonsun Choi ( ) as our member in spotlight. Dr. Choi is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at The University of Chicago. She also serves as Chairperson-Elect (2019-2021) for SRCD Asian Caucus. Her fields of special interest include minority youth development; effects of race, ethnicity, and culture in youth development; children of immigrants; Asian American youth; and prevention of youth problem behaviors.

Yoonsun Choi Photo 20181) What drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?

My scholarship is rooted in and strongly motivated by my previous practice experience as a social worker. My post-master’s professional practice includes several years of working as a clinical social worker in diverse settings such as a community youth center, outpatient psychiatric clinic, and foster care program. Across agency types, I observed the difficulties of helping professionals as they struggled to connect with and provide effective interventions to minority and immigrant families. I keenly felt the real-world, and sometimes tragic, consequences caused by the absence of appropriate practice guidelines and the dearth of evidence-based intervention programs for minority populations. In particular, the minority youth population, which was surging at the outset of my career, is now projected to grow from 49% in 2014 to 60% in 2050. The need for cultural competence and efficacy in clinical practice is compelling. Among several groups that I worked with, the needs of Asian Americans stood out as they remained invisible, understudied and misunderstood.

2) A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it. 

My current longitudinal survey research with Filipino American and Korean Americans is producing several important findings that have clinical implications and are ready to be translated into interventions. For example, one of papers that were recently submitted showed critical distinctions between salutary components of Asian American family process and those that might heighten vulnerabilities in Asian American youth. For example, gendered norms and academic controls (e.g., not allowing social activities to prevent distraction from studying) may be the source of mental distress among Asian Americans. Academic control, especially when considered along with other types of parental control such as rules and monitoring, may in fact be detrimental to Asian American youth development, including even the very outcome, i.e., academic performance, that such control aims to improve. Conversely, implicit parental affection, a hallmark of Asian American family process (i.e., parent’s putting child’s needs before theirs or indirect expression of love that often comes in the form of instrumental support), produces better academic performance. These findings in part explain the Asian American paradox (a mixed outcome of good external behaviors but high internalizing problems) and reinforced my commitment to identify the level and form of cultural and/or bicultural parenting ideal for balanced growth among Asian American youth.

3) Any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus?

It has been wonderful to join the SRCD Asian Caucus from its inception and exciting to watch it grow so much, so fast. It was indeed awesome to see it become an official part of the SRCD leadership. As a new Chair-Elect, I am very much looking forward to working with everyone to continue the impressive accomplishment that the Asian Caucus achieved to this date and move forward with ever growing and ambitious agenda.

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