August 2021 Spotlight, Catherine P. Chou, Ph.D

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Catherine Chou ( as our member in spotlight. Dr. Chou is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Southeast Missouri State University. Her research focuses on youth risk-taking and decision making about health and safety related behaviors, as well as how family and cultural environments may influence these behaviors.

  • 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?  

I have had many opportunities to visit several countries since I was a child. Exposure to diverse cultures and people has not only shaped my worldview but also raised my interests in cultural research in my career. Having interacted with local people in different cultural contexts, I realize that the trajectory of one’s development varies by the interaction of nature and nurture. Particularly, I am interested in the environmental influences and personal factors that contribute to cultural differences in behavior. Therefore, I develop my research interests broadly in psychosocial development cross-culturally, with a focus on Asian and American adolescents and emerging adults.

My primary research interest focuses on how and why youths engage in health and safety related risk-taking behaviors (e.g., smoking, drug use, risky driving, etc.). I examine family, decision-making, and cultural factors that contribute to risk-taking behaviors, and adopt a developmental approach to study it cross-culturally in the U.S. and Asia. For instance, in one project, we explored the use and the effect of parental control on risk tolerance and risk-taking behaviors among high school and college students in the U.S. and Taiwan. Another line of my research focuses on the core features of emerging adulthood. In collaboration with an international team, I am involved in a project called EAMMi3 ( that seeks to explore attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs related to emerging adulthood across the world.

I am very grateful for the tremendous support from Dr. Misaki Natsuaki and Dr. Nancy Guerra during my graduate school years at the University of California, Riverside. They have inspired my exploration of adolescent development and cultural research, and they have provided me with invaluable guidance and mentoring in my professional and personal growth. I am privileged to have both of them as my advisors and mentors for my research and career development.

  • Tell us about a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  

Recently, I worked with Dr. Eu Gene Chin and Dr. Sarah Tlapek on a project that investigated the role of prejudicial attitudes in language and stigmatizing behavior in Taiwan and Malaysia. We are now working on a manuscript and are excited to share the findings soon. In the study, we examined how prejudicial attitudes might explain the relationship between language exposure (i.e., responding to a scenario described in Mandarin versus English) and the predispositions to help someone else who may be experiencing PTSD symptoms due to sexual trauma. The results suggested that specific cultural factors (e.g., “saving face”) may account for discriminatory behavior. Future stigma-reduction interventions can incorporate cultural elements to increase intervention efficacy with Mandarin-speaking individuals.

In addition, I am currently collaborating with a group of scholars on a book regarding the early psychological research contributions from women of color. I am authoring a chapter that focuses on the first Chinese woman who earned a Ph.D. in Psychology in the U.S. The book is expected to be finished next year and will help scholars and students learn about these female pioneers and their research, including the critique and implications.

  • Thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus. 

Attending the social events with the Asian Caucus at SRCD was a wonderful experience for me when I was a graduate student. I enjoyed meeting professionals and other students, was fascinated and inspired by the conversations with them, and made many friends that I still have connections with. I look forward to attending more events and being more involved in the Asian Caucus community, which is a great resource for researchers at different career levels.

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