Although past studies have revealed ethnic and cultural variations in social anxiety, little research addresses why these variations might arise. The present study addressed this gap by examining emotion regulation as an explanatory mechanism that may account for such differences. Drawing from a culture-specific (Kitayama, Karasawa, & Mesquita, 2004), as well as process-based (Gross, 1998) model of emotion regulation, we hypothesized that emotion suppression would mediate associations between self-construals (interdependent and independent) and social anxiety symptoms. The data analytic sample consisted of 784 self-identified Asian American college students from 20 colleges/universities in the United States. Participants completed the study measures via a confidential, online questionnaire. Structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses indicated a significant indirect effect of both types of self-construal on social anxiety through emotion suppression. Specifically, an interdependent self-construal was associated with more (whereas an independent self-construal was associated with less) emotion suppression, which in turn, was associated with higher levels of social anxiety. Clinically, these findings suggest that an individual's emotion regulation strategy could serve as a proximal target of intervention among Asian American young adults.
Keywords: Asian American; emotion suppression; interdependent and independent self-construals; social anxiety.