Cindy Liu Interview

As we prepare for TAF and our theme of Identity this year, we wanted to take a deeper look into the issues that affect Asian Americans today. To do so, our tafLabs team reached out to Dr. Cindy Liu, who researches stress and mental health disparities in children and families.

cindy profile brazil 700Dr. Cindy Liu is the Director of Multicultural Research at the Commonwealth Research Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Instructor of Psychology within the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and an Assistant Research Professor within the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

On a personal level, her ancestors came from a variety of places, including Keelung, Tainan, and Huwei. Now, her family resides primarily in Taipei and Tainan. Her parents had immigrated to Massachusetts for graduate school, and right after she was born, they moved to Minnesota, where she spent her childhood. Cindy’s favorite Taiwanese foods include dan bing, lembu.

Take a look at our interview with her below.

  1. How did you first become interested in the mental health of East Asian immigrant populations in the US?

As with a lot of other children of Taiwanese immigrants, I enrolled in an engineering program at college, with a plan for being an engineer or medical doctor. Towards the end of my second year at the University of Minnesota, I realized I was less than enthusiastic about chemistry and physics. I decided to do something a little different and take a psychology course for fun. I was surprised to learn that psychology could be a scientific pursuit. I ended up switching majors and getting experience working in a psychology research lab where I learned about parenting and infant stress. During this time, I wondered if there might be differences among infants and children across different cultural groups, given my own upbringing as a Taiwanese American in Minnesota. As a result, I continually added to my lab experience by doing research on Asian Americans. It was until later in grad school where I realized that the knowledge of stress in child development and culture could yield important insights about the mental health of Asian American children and families. I currently take a lifespan and intergenerational perspective to my work with a focus on two points within development – the perinatal and childhood periods.

  1. What project are you working on now?

My research has shown that Asian American women during the postpartum period have high rates of postpartum depression, more so than Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. This is consistent with other research indicating higher levels of suicidality in Asian American women between the ages of 15-24 years. Previous history of mental health issues often precedes postpartum depression, so in a way, this finding should not be surprising; however, it is a major concern when we think about the effects that this has on the individual and family. Aside from the distress that parents with mental health issues might experience, poor parent mental health is also a risk to children’s development. What is particularly problematic is that Asian American women are less likely to be screened for postpartum depression compared to other groups. Given our knowledge in this area, we have a way to go in identifying and treating Asian American women suffering from postpartum depression through culturally appropriate ways.

A second research project is a collaboration with others from Wellesley and U Mass Boston where we’ve been studying immigration stress among Asian immigrant families in the Boston area. One thing that has emerged from this work is the extent to which parents often are separated from their children during the course of migration. For instance, among our sample, approximately 20% of the Asian immigrant parents send their U.S. born infants back to Asia as a child care arrangement. Often, grandparents and other family members take care of the children until they can enroll in school or be part of some child care arrangement back in the U.S. What we are finding is that this practice commonly occurs among Taiwanese and Chinese families regardless of education or income level, and that this practice may have implications for children’s relationship with their parents and other family members, and relationships with others later in life. We are currently enrolling adults 18+ who experienced this separation early in life:


  1. Have you identified some key drivers of stress in Asian American families?

The stress that Asian American families often experience are related to immigration and acculturation. That is, the move and the adjustment to a new culture and language can be quite hard. Parenting is a challenge in and of itself but may be especially challenging for immigrants who do not have support from extended family members that they would otherwise have if they were back in Asia. As well, children often acculturate at a faster rate than their immigrant parents. Therefore, there may be a divergence in cultural values and behaviors between parents and children over time. Family conflicts may arise as a result of these stressors.

  1. What is the ultimate goal of your research? How do you hope to impact the communities you study?

I hope that my research can be translated to evidence based practices that serve Asian American families in a meaningful way. There is so much stigma around mental health within Asian culture. A challenge for researchers and providers such as myself is to make supports approachable and relevant for Asian Americans – whether they are first or second generation, etc. For instance, the word “stress” may be a very acceptable term when talking with Asian Americans about mental health related issues; at the same time, it is a term that is appropriate and measurable from a research standpoint. There are also so many strengths among Asian American communities. Thus, another task is to identify and build upon those existing strengths. This might include collaborating with community organizations such as community centers, churches, or language schools, or even specific individuals from informal social networks (e.g., elders) that are known to have a positive influence on their peers.

  1. Do you have practical advice for Asian American parents and/or children to help them increase their well-being?

For both parents and children, having an awareness and appreciation of the fact that different family members have different acculturative challenges and ways of expressing emotion may be useful in developing a sense of empathy and understanding. I think that the Asian American community has started to make great strides in having discussions that relate to mental health and well-being. I am hopeful that Asian Americans across generations can not only contribute to this discussion but to consider this area as a viable and important educational and career opportunity.

President’s Corner

rsz_messages_image1216769231Welcome to TAF 2015!

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the 2014-2016 President of the Taiwanese American Foundation (TAF).

As I begin my term, I would like to say Thank You to each of the parents of TAFers, including past, present and future, for your support over the years. Since TAF was founded in 1980, over 5,000 first, second and third generation Taiwanese have attended our programs, most notably the TAF Summer Conference and that we consider as part of the “TAF Family”.

Our all-volunteer Board and TAF Leadership Team plan for TAF throughout the year, from the Summer Conference to our New Years Party and regional events all over the world. We are planning to expand the network and activities for TAFers and hope that you explore TAF and become involved in the TAF Family and Network.

I would like to thank our Executive Director, Elizabeth Wang, for her leadership of her Staff team over the past year and the tremendous growth of the Summer Conference and especially all of the Program Directors and Advisors who make TAF happen for your children. I would also like to thank the Board and Executive Committee for their operational directives and guidance over TAF throughout the year.

We hope that you find this year’s Summer Conference, based on the topic of Leadership, to be valuable and make an impact on your children who will attend. ED Liz’s team stresses the value of learning, growth and safety to bring this unique program to the Taiwanese Community.

If you have any suggestions for future events, please let the Board, ED Liz or her Staff know so we can continue providing value for your contribution to TAF.

We cannot do TAF without you!

Thank you,

Spencer Chen
President, 2014-2016
Taiwanese American Foundation

‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the season for friends, family, and just as importantly…food. We here on the tafBlog love this time of the year because of all those reasons. And as the days grow shorter and the weather turns colder (it gets chilly here in Los Angeles too!), we think it gives us a great reason to huddle up next to each other and enjoy some hearty food. So for this past Thanksgiving, tafLA decided to get together with some friends at our main outpost, affectionately dubbed the “Yauhaus”, and share in the festivities. And in true tafLabs fashion, we recorded a video about it!

Building a Home | Los Angeles, CA from Seaglass Cinema on Vimeo.

And for those of you who are sad to have missed out on all the buttery desserts, come join your fellow TAFers Saturday. December 29th in Chicago for TAF New Years! Check out the evite link here:

Family, friends, and food. What more could you ask for? Happy holidays everyone and we hope to see you December 29th! Happy holidays and Happy New Year!

TAF2012 Conference Photo

Well, sort of conference-wide. Shout out to the Juniors Staff for prepping their awesome Juniors Olympics in lieu of being able to make the photo. Comes sized to fit most computers as a desktop wallpaper!

TAF love y’all 😀


Want to listen to select TAF 2012 music on the bus or while walking around your house doing chores? Well look no further than the TAF blog! MPSs of your favourite musical acts can be found below! (Right click on the links to save them to your computer!)

Alison Yeh – I’m In Here
Jasmine Tedjo – A Piano Girl
Juniors Staff – Call Me Maybe
Justin Wang – TAF Crush
Melody Chen – One and Only
The Killer Bees – 4 Chord Song

TAF Night 2012!

New videos are being uploaded to our YouTube channel every day! Please visit here or the /tafmediachannel on YouTube!

Plenty more media updates coming as well. Sorry for taking so long, the internet can be a slow place.

TAF 2012 Slideshow

Another amazing week of TAF has come and gone. We look forward your own personal blog posts, recaps, videos, and pictures, and the TAF Night acts are being uploaded as we speak. And in case you haven’t seen it on facebook or twitter yet, here is this year’s incarnation of the slideshow. Hope you enjoy!

If you like the music we chose, support the artists and buy their songs!
1. Swedish House Mafia – Save the World Tonight (Radio Mix)
2. fun. – We Are Young
3. Monsters Calling Home – Growing Up
4. The Editors – Weight of the World

TAF 2012 Daily Recap: Friday

The week is coming to an end. Speaker sessions are wrapping up. Memories were made. Tears were shed. Reflections were developed of how we will carry the lessons we learned throughout the week to redefine our lives. And now we’re ready to shake it off at the dance and savor the last few moments of TAF 2012.

TAF 2012 Daily Recap: Thursday

Like the beef stew we got served tonight by the delightful Manchester staff, we’re getting into the meaty parts of our week. Enjoy our fourth Daily Recap!