Yoonsun Choi, a female-presenting person, sits in an office and smiles away from the camera.

Yoonsun Choi, PhD

Mose J. and Sylvia Firestone Professor; Chair, Doctoral Program

969 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Office Location: E-13 / WSSC 209

Areas of Expertise
Asian Americans
Children and Adolescents
Mental Health
Race, Ethnicity, and Culture
Substance Abuse
Violence and Trauma
UChicago Affiliations
Center for East Asian Studies
Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture

Race, ethnicity and culture fundamentally shape the development of minority and immigrant youth, a growing demographic in the US. How these preteens and teens manage family and peer group pressures and wrestle with stereotyping will often determine mental health and academic outcomes, according to research by Yoonsun Choi, Professor at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Understanding the range of influences affecting youth is crucial, says Choi, to developing the proper social supports and interventions to ensure that they reach their potential.

A central line of Choi's research efforts is debunking the "model minority" myth attached especially to Asian Americans. In truth, the behaviors and attitudes of Asian Americans are far more complex - and, in fact, far closer to those of white youths, and in some cases worse. There also are considerable differences among Asian American subgroups. For example, Choi's research of nationally representative high school student data shows that Filipino, "other" Asian (Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong and Pacific Islanders), and Asian youth with multiple Asian ethnicities showed higher rates of both violent and petty crime behavior, substance use and poor school-related behavior than Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese American counterparts. The "model minority" stereotype has been used to justify glossing over serious barriers and adversities that Asian Americans face, and, worryingly, impede the proper policy prescriptions.

Choi's research into behavior among multiracial youths has generated significant media attention. While discrimination often affects all ethnic youth, compared to single race minority youths, multiracial youths have greater difficulty navigating the challenges of race and identity, and face greater sense of alienation and social injustice. They are often questioned about their racial heritage and may feel marginalized at an early age than single-race youth. This can lead, Choi finds, to greater likelihood of problem behaviors ranging from smoking cigarettes to drug and alcohol use and violence. Choi argues that parents and teachers must be far more attentive to risky behavior and prepared to take action with these youths as early as pre-teens.

Working with first and second generation Filipino Americans and Korean Americans in Midwest, Choi is now studying the forces of assimilation and acculturation and especially how culture plays out in family process. Immigration is a significant life-altering event and can exert a physical and emotional toll on the family. In her work with both parents and children, Choi finds that youths, in high numbers, describe themselves as “hyphenated” Americans (i.e., Filipino American or Korean American). Yet, the older generation is far more insular, holding on to distinctly traditional values, resistant to change. Inter-generational tensions are emerging. For example, she finds that Asian parents are seen by their children as placing too much emphasis on education. There are large differences, too, between first and second generation Asian Americans in perceptions of what constitutes parent-child conflict. Choi's work with Vietnamese and Cambodian youth and their family confirms that parent-child conflict when perceived as such by youth leads to problem behaviors.

Along with her research of other immigrant groups and multiracial youths, the impact of Choi's work with Asian Americans is identifying the array of social issues and gaps in the service network that policy makers must address to ensure the well-being of this expanding group of Americans. Choi's research has been funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She regularly appears before academic audience and community groups to discuss her work.

Prejudice and Discrimination: Individual Cost and Response

This foundational diversity class explores the origins and practices of racial/ethnic prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination, and how other demographic factors such...

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Dissertation Proposal Seminar

This seminar focuses on the development and discussion of dissertation proposals. Over the course of year, students will attend 15 2-hour workshops devoted to 1)...

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Doctoral Workshop on Theory in Social Work Research

This workshop will provide SSA doctoral students with the opportunity to examine the diverse social science theories that undergird social work and social welfare— as...

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Professors Yoonsun Choi and Waldo E. Johnson, Jr. are inducted as 2023 fellows by the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW)
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Redefining How People Think about Asian Immigrants
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Looking Behind the Myths of Asian American Parenting
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See all news articles about Mose J. and Sylvia Firestone Professor; Chair, Doctoral Program Yoonsun Choi
See all media stories featuring Yoonsun Choi
Award For Excellence in Doctoral Student Mentoring at Crown Family School
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Choi, Y.Jeong, E., & Park, M. (In Press). Asian Americans’ parent-child conflict and racial discrimination may explain mental distress. Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Sciences (PIBBS).

Shen, Y., Lee, H. Choi, Y., Hu Y., & Kim, K. (In Press). Ethnic-racial socialization, ethnic-racial identity, and depressive symptoms in Korean adolescents in the United States and China. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Park, M., Choi, Y., Yoo, H. C., Yasui, M. & Takeuchi, D. (In Press). Racial stereotypes and Asian American Youth Paradox. Journal of Youth & Adolescence.

Yoon, E., Choi, Y., Kim, D. & Adams, P. (In Press). Acculturation/enculturation and internalized model minority myth in Korean immigrant families. Asian American Journal of Psychology.

Yasui, M., Choi, Y., Samuels, G., Chin, M. Kim, K. & Victorson, D. (In Press). Parental socialization of mental health in Chinese American families: What parents say and do and how youth make meaning. Family Process.

Park, M., Choi, Y., Yasui, M, & Hedeker, D. (2021). Racial discrimination, mental health, and the moderating effects of racial and ethnic socialization among Asian American youth. Child Development.

Yoon, E., Choi, Y., Suh, J.E. & Galvin, S. (2021) Examination of Korean immigrant mothers’ parenting practices: By using the framework of bilinear acculturation. Asian American Journal of Psychology. 12(1), 52-64. (NIHMSID #1680680)

Yasui, M., Choi, Y., Chin, M., Samuels, G., Kim, K. & Victorson, D. (2021). Cultural competency in engagement: A qualitative analysis of mental health providers serving Asian immigrant populations. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

Choi, Y., Kim, T.Y., Lee, J.P., Tan, K., Noh, S. & Takeuchi, D. (2021). Upholding familism among Asian American youth: Psychometric properties of familism measures among Filipino and Korean American youth. Adolescent Research Review. Available online. (NIHMSID #1668243)

Choi, J., Ryou, B., Kim, K., Choi, Y. & Hahm, H.C. (2020). Latent subtypes and psychosocial characteristics of suicidality among South Korean youth. Journal of Korean Social Welfare Studies. 51(2).

Choi, Y., Park, M., Lee, J.P. & Lee, M. (2020). Explaining the Asian American youth paradox: Universal factors vs. Asian American family process among Filipino and Korean American youth. Family Process. 59(4), 1818-1836.

Woo, B., Maglalang, D.D., Ko, S., Park, M., Choi, Y. & Takeuchi, D. (2020). Racial discrimination, ethnic-racial socialization, and bicultural identities among Asian American youths. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. (PMC7483177)

Choi, Y., Park, M., Lee, J.P., Noh, S. & Takeuchi, D. (2020). Asian American mental health: Longitudinal trend and explanatory factors among Filipino- and Korean Americans. Social Science & Medicine: Population Health 10(100542). (PMC6994703

Choi, Y.Lee, M., Lee, J.P., Park, M.Lee, S., Hahm, H.C. (2020). Disempowering parenting and mental health among Asian American youth: Immigration and ethnicity. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 66 (January). (PMC7451263)

Tan, K., Gorman-Smith, D., Schoeny, M. & Choi, Y. (2019). Patterns of social-emotional problems and trajectories of aggression and substance use among middle school boys. Journal of Early Adolescence. 39(9), 1217-1243.

Ryou, B.Choi, Y., Hong, J.S., & Kim, K. (2019). Cultural Orientations and psychosocial adjustments among immigrant adolescents in South Korea. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. 21 276-777.

Tan, K., Heath, R.D., Das, A., & Choi, Y. (2019). Gender differences in patterns of school victimization and problem behaviors during middle-school and their relation with school experience and graduation outcomes. Youth & Society. 51(3), 339-357.

Choi, Y., Park, M., Lee, J.P., Yasui, M., & Kim, T.Y. (2018). Explicating acculturation strategies among Asian American youth: Subtypes and correlates across Filipino and Korean Americans. Journal of Youth and Adolescence47(10), 2181-2205. (PMC6286232)

Choi, Y., Kim, Y.S., Lee, J.P., Kim, H., Kim, T.Y., & Kim, S.Y. (2018). Bilinear, multidimensional cultural orientations and indigenous family process among Korean immigrant mothers and fathers. Asian American Journal of Psychology9(2), 127-139. (PMC6193501)

Choi, Y., Kim, T.Y., Noh, S., Lee, J.P., & Takeuchi, D. (2018). Culture and family process: Measures of familism for Filipino and Korean American parents. Family Process, 57(4), 1029-1048. (PMC5899960). 

Augsberger, A., Rivera, A.M., Hahm, C.T., Lee, Y.A., Choi, Y. & Hahm, H.C. (2018). Culturally related risk factors of suicidal ideation, intent, and lethality of suicide plan young among young Asian American women. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 9(4), 252-261.

Yasui, M., Kim, T.Y., & Choi, Y., (2018). Culturally specific parent mental distress, parent-child relations and youth depression among Korean American families. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 27(10), 3371-3384.

Choi, Y., Park, M., Lee, J.P., Kim, T.Y., & Tan, K. (2017). Culture and family process: Examination of culture specific family process via development of new parenting measures among Filipino and Korean American families with adolescents. In Y. Choi & H.C. Hahm (Eds.), Asian American Parenting: Family Process and Intervention (pp.37-68), New York, NY: Springer. 

Choi, Y. (2017). Rising challenges and opportunities of uncertain times for Asian American families. In Y. Choi & H.C. Hahm (Eds.), Asian American Parenting: Family Process and Intervention (pp.1-10), New York, NY: Springer.

Choi, Y. & Hahm, H.C. (2017). Asian American Parenting: Family Process and Intervention, New York, NY: Springer.

Choi, Y.Kim, T.Y.Pekelnicky, D.D., Kim, K. & Kim, Y.S. (2017). Impact of youth cultural orientations on perception of family process and development among Korean Americans. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. 23(2), 244-257. (PMC5243931)

Choi, Y.Tan, K., Yasui, M., & Hahm, H.C. (2016). Advancing Understanding of Acculturation for Adolescents of Immigrants: Person-Oriented Analysis of Acculturation Strategy among Korean American Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 45(7), 1380-1395. (PMC4907325)

Choi, Y., Tan, K., Yasui, M., & Pekelnicky, D.D. (2014). Race-ethnicity and culture in the family and youth outcomes: Test of a path model with Korean American youth and parents. Race and Social Problems (NIHMSID#557629

Choi, Y. (2014). Moving forward: Asian Americans in the Discourse of Race and Social Problems. Race and Social Problems (NIHMSID#558848

Choi, Y., Kim, Y. S., Pekelnicky, D. D., and Kim, H. J. (2013). Preservation and modification of culture in family socialization: Development of parenting measures for Korean immigrant families. Asian American Journal of Psychology 4(2): 143-54. (NIHMSID# 358897).

Choi, Y., Kim, Y.S., Kim, S.Y., & Park, I.J.K. (2013). Is Asian American Parenting Controlling and Harsh? Empirical Testing of Relationships between Korean American and Western Parenting Measures. Asian American Journal of Psychology. 4(1), 19-29 (PMC3746991).

Choi, Y., He, M., Herrenkohl, T., Catalano, R.F., Toumbourou, J.W. (2012). Multiple identification and risks: Examination of peer factors across multiracial and single-race youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 41(7), 847-862. (PMC22395776).

Choi, Y. (2012). Korean Americans. In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Social Work, Edward Mullen, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Choi, Y. (2012). Asian-American youth. In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Social Work, Edward Mullen, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Choi, Y. (2011). Risk factors for problem behaviors and conduct disorders among Asian American children and youth. In Asian American and Pacific Islander Children and Mental Health, Vol. 2: Prevention and Treatment, Frederick T. L. Leong, Linda Juang, Desiree B. Qin, and Hiram E. Fitzgerald, eds. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Choi, Y., & Kim, Y.S. (2010). Acculturation and the family: Core vs. peripheral changes among Korean Americans. Journal of Studies of Koreans Abroad. 21, 135-190. (PMC3148822)

Choi, Y., He, M., & Harachi, T.W. (2008). Intergenerational cultural dissonance, family conflict, parent-child bonding, and youth antisocial behaviors among Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrant families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 37(1), 85-96. (PMC2475652)

Choi, Y. (2008). Diversity within: Subgroup differences of youth problem behaviors among Asian Pacific Islander American adolescents. Journal of Community Psychology. 36(3), 352-370. (PMC2475653)

Choi, Y. (2008). Asian Americans: Korean. In T. Mizrahi & L. E. Davis (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Social Work (20th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 169-172): Oxford University Press & NASW.

Choi, Y. (2007). Academic achievement and problem behaviors among Asian Pacific Islander American adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36, 403-415. (PMC4144194)

Choi, Y., Harachi, T.W., & Catalano, R.F. (2006). Neighborhoods, family, and substance use: Comparisons of the relations across racial and ethnic groups. Social Service Review, 80(4), 675-704. (PMC2373278)

Harachi, T.W., Choi, Y., Abbott, R.D., Catalano, R.F., & Bliesner, S.L. (2006). Examining equivalence of concepts and measures in diverse samples. Prevention Science, 7(4), 359-368. (PMC3293252)

Choi, Y., & Lahey, B. B. (2006). Testing the model minority stereotype: Youth behaviors across racial and ethnic groups. Social Service Review, 80(3), 419-452. (PMC3093248)

Choi, Y., Harachi, T.W., Gillmore, M.R., & Catalano, R.F. (2006). Are multiracial adolescents at greater risk? Comparisons of rates, patterns, and correlates of substance use and violence between monoracial and multiracial adolescents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 86-97. (PMC3292211)

Choi, Y., Mericle, A., & Harachi, T.W. (2006). Using Rasch analysis to test the cross-cultural item equivalence of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist across Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrant mothers. Journal of Applied Measurement, 7(1), 16-38. (PMC3292214)

Choi, Y., Harachi, T.W., Gillmore, M.R., & Catalano, R.F. (2005). Applicability of the Social Development Model to urban ethnic minority youth: Examining the relationships between external constraints, family socialization, and problem behaviors. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 15(4), 505-534. (PMC3103210)

Choi, Y., Golder, S., Gillmore, M. R., & Morrison, D. M. (2005). Analysis with missing data in social work research. Journal of Social Service Research, 31(3), 23-48.

Choi, Y. & Harachi, T.W. (2002). The cross-cultural equivalence of the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation scale among Vietnamese and Cambodian Americans. Journal of Social Work Research and Evaluation, 3(1), 5-17.

Harachi, T.W., Catalano, R.F., Kim, S. & Choi, Y. (2001). Etiology and prevention of substance use among Asian American Youth. Prevention Science, 2(1), 57-65.

Yoonsun Choi is a Professor and Chair of the Doctoral Program at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. 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. Professor Choi teaches courses in research methods and immigrant adolescents for masters' students and foundation statistics for doctoral students.

Professor Choi's research seeks to understand the familial and environmental processes that influence and impact ethnic minority children and their development and serves to inform the development of age- and culturally appropriate preventive interventions. She has conducted a series of interrelated research projects to identify the multiple developmental trajectories of Asian American youth and the factors that predominate in the determination of these outcomes. Her research has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Pre-Doctoral Traineeship in Prevention Research and NIMH Dissertation Research Grant Award in Mental health while at the Social Development Research Group, the University of Washington-Seattle. Professor Choi was also a recipient of the Research Scientist Development Award (K01) from NIMH. Funded by R01 Research Project Grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD), one of her current research projects, the Midwest Longitudinal Study of Asian American Families (ML-SAAF), examines Asian American adolescent development and how their parents can help maximize youth potential. This study is particularly interested in the role of culture in family (such as culturally unique family processes, parent-child cultural conflicts), racial prejudice and discrimination, ethnic identity, and culture change and formation (acculturation) that may all be unique issues of adolescent behavior for this target group as well as other ethnic and immigrant youth. Details of ML-SAAF can be found in

Professor Choi received a B.A. in English/Education from Ewha University (Seoul, Korea), an M.S.S.W. from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of Washington-Seattle. Her background also includes several years of clinical social work practice experiences in a variety of agencies with diverse populations. She worked with ethnic minority youth with severe emotional and/or behavioral problems and their families, children in foster care, mentally ill immigrant adults, and HIV+ immigrants with limited English proficiency. Professor Choi actively promotes the field of social work research, education and practice. She served as the Vice President for the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) and was the Program Chair for the SSWR 2012 Annual Conference, held in Washington, D.C.