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

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: Sunday


TAF is back! This year, hundreds of TAFers (new and returning) gathered up at Manchester College in North Manchester to celebrate another week of TAF. Please take a look at our first of MANY daily recaps and live the magic the campers are experiencing right now.


Oh hey, if you’re in the Chicago area around this time, hit up the TAF New Year party!

Aside, just wanted to share a holiday story:
As her Christmas gift to me, one of my roommates, Anna, (who is Jewish, and not Taiwanese, btw) made a donation to TAF on my behalf. And then, she created this cute little announcement on cardstock paper and presented it to me:

Some cool things about this gift are:

-I wasn’t expecting a gift in mid-December. It kinda came out of nowhere and was a pleasant surprise!
-I have never solicited a donation to TAF (from my roommates)! She simply wanted to give towards a cause that I appreciate and value. She asked my other roommate, Debbie, for suggestions on making a donation to a Taiwanese organization. Debbie suggested making a donation to TAF, since she knew that TAFers are a huge part of my life – many TAFers have stayed on our couch in Philly, she often sees me traveling here and there to see TAFers, and she’s met a few on her own travels to the Bay Area, as well as online for Australia travel tips. Thanks, Howard! And good call, Debbie!
-Anna is a unique and compassionate individual. Her gift represents who she is! This investment will go towards TAF’s mission of growing servant leaders working to impact mankind in unique and compassionate ways.
-The gift does not take up a lot of space in my room/teeny tiny closet.

Hope everyone is enjoying the season. Happy 2012!


TAF 2011: Daily Recap – Thursday

Junior Photo Update!
The Juniors were transported this week to a magical land full of dragons. They’ve had lessons on leadership and Taiwan history while making friends along the way. Here is a glimpse into their week. Enjoy!

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TAF Real World – Week #49 of 51

THREE MORE WEEKS UNTIL TAF! Please register ASAP if you haven’t yet and invite your friends. Here’s Jesse’s piece for the LOL blog series and some thoughts on how what we learn at TAF applies to everyday life, projects and pursuing our goals.

Hi TAF! Originally, my friends and I were going to create a little drama that showcased loving out loud to the fullest. Unfortunately, due to some technical issues and some time constraints, the video is still not complete. I hope that we complete and post the video on the blog before TAF 2011 starts! To make up for the lack of video, we created a great trailer that has nothing to do with the actual Love out Loud video, but has some scenes that will be used in the Love out Loud video. Here is the link if you want to watch!

Even though the film is not complete yet, I still can reflect on the process of creating the film. It turns out that the four main themes of TAF all showed up in some way while creating the video: Communication, Ethics and Values, Leadership, and Identity. Loving out loud was also a prominent theme while creating the film. How can all of these themes be seen simply just by creating a video? I am about to tell you!

Communication: TAF’s theme from last year was definitely used while creating the film. Because this film was my idea, I had to call/text/fb message the crew and actors or actresses to tell them what time and place we would be meeting to shoot some film or edit the video. This may seem easy, but rounding up 15 people and trying to fit time into their summer schedule was really hard!

Ethics and Values: It was hard dealing with what was right and what was wrong for the video. For one section, it seemed right for the character to swear, but knowing that juniors may be watching, we edited and forced some actors to do retakes of scenes over and over again! We also got side tracked from the original goal sometimes. The primary value, or goal was to finish the video for TAF Blog and show loving out loud, but sometimes we strayed from that and just tried to make an entertaining video. I don’t know where on the road we are now, but hopefully, the video will present an entertainment aspect as well as a loving out loud aspect.

Leadership: My leadership skills were tested thoroughly throughout the creation of the video. Some of the cast members wanted to make this film a feature film that got thousands and thousands of views. This meant that while filming, everything had to be perfect. Knowing that we were short on time, I sometimes had to boss my friends around change their stubborn mind! (Don’t get me wrong, their stubborn minds created great ideas, but some were just too ambitious for the time we had.) When I reflect on creating the video, I know that I could have led a lot better than I did. Gathering cast members, directing the film, giving my ideas, incorporating other ideas, and organization all could have gone much smoother. Good thing leadership is this year at TAF!

Identity: The major thing I learned about myself while creating the video is that I am never going to make it as an actor in Hollywood. It is just too hard to keep a straight face on when there’s a camera pointing right at your face.

Loving Out Loud: My friends definitely Loved Out Loud while creating this video. If it wasn’t for them, we would not have any video in the making! We have been shooting film for the video for about 24 hours, and to show for our effort, currently have about 5 minutes of edited film. That meant that my friends volunteered a lot of their summer just to help shoot a video for TAF! Also, when it came to getting people to act in the film, it was easy as pie. I have become better friends with the people involved in the video, and that is because we both helped each other out while creating the video. I could bounce off ideas with cast members, or we could just goof off a little. They all were certainly there for me and I was there for all of them. All of the people who were involved in this video are crucial characters in my life that help me get through the tough school year every year. I love them!

I hope I see everyone in three weeks! And make sure to check back to see the awesome video that will be posted before TAF 2011 starts! (hopefully) 🙂

-Jesse Kao

TAF Real World – Week #49 of 51

General consensus is that TAF helps us understand ourselves better. Subsequently, this also gives us insightful material when needing to write essays for English class/college admissions essays. [TAF is great for academic success!] Here’s Jason (YAY!) with an introspection piece. See you all in North Manchester, Indiana in FOUR WEEKS!


Yeh /yā/ (rhymes with hay. Same pronunciation as interjection yay.) n.
1. The root of all awful jokes generally following roll call or an introduction
2. My last name

I’ve always thought that names are an important aspect to someone’s sense of self. Without names, no one would have an identity. I imagine it would also be a lot tougher to buy Taylor Swift’s amazing new album on iTunes. There would also be absolutely no chance that a white person could identify the actual race of that one “Asian kid” without names. This belief has led me to question why the universe has decided to spite me by birthing me into a family with such a comically simple last name. I mean no disrespect or dishonor to my ‘fahmiry’; my family doesn’t get much better. Just there is this one little three-letter embarrassment. I am positively certain everyone has that single facet of themselves they absolutely dread. For some people, it could be a final exam that they “studied” for by watching the last five seasons of Entourage or a musical performance that was unprepared for (lip syncing actually isn’t considered an effective method of practice). Both actually apply to me, but they don’t even compare alongside introductions. Not just because I know I’ll manage to embarrass myself within twenty seconds of meeting someone, but because of the awkward single eyebrow and head cock I receive after introducing myself with, “Hello, I’m Jason Yeh. Nice to meet you.” It would be extremely rash for me to blame my current teenage unemployment to my last name, but I know I received an aforementioned eyebrow and head cock at a job interview at the local Dairy Queen. The unemployment is probably because my competition was a high honor roll and dance member at my high school. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have chosen me either. All of my teachers and coaches would even dish out similar eyebrows and head cocks upon learning that my last name was actually not several foreign car companies long.

Of course since then I have changed. I know there was no event of self-actualization found in movies. Accepting my last name has actually been disappointingly anti-climatic. Now, I don’t have to mumble through introductions with gibberish syllables after “Yeh.” Rather, it’s as if my brain tells me in the voice of Kanye West, “You is what you is.” I can take pride in what I am, and I know that has to mean a higher sense of maturity. At least that’s what I managed to rationalize the situation with. When that fails, I know that the jokes that follow my name aren’t as bad as some jokes that follow “Bing Wang.”

TAF Real World – Week #47 of 51

FIVE more weeks until THE ONES!!!

HAFA ADAI! (That’s “Hello” in Chamorro, the local dialect in Guam.) Here’s Bing video blogging from Guam (it’s in the South Pacific for those who didn’t know). Umm… can someone get me a box of tissues? You might need some tissues too. And then, after you watch this video, and stop crying, you’re probably going to need your credit card so that you can register for TAF right away! LOL