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The Unique Promotive and Protective Effects of Racial Socialization: A Comparison of Racial Socialization and General Positive Parenting Practices for African American Youth Exposed to Racial Discrimination Open Access

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Racial socialization and general positive parenting are important aspects of parenting for African American adolescents (Gutman, McLoyd, & Tokoyawa, 2005; Stevenson, Cameron, Herrero-Taylor, & Davis, 2002) that have been linked to a range of positive adjustment outcomes. Research also demonstrated that both aspects of parenting protect African American adolescents against the impact of racial discrimination (e.g., Brody et al., 2006; Harris-Britt, Valrie, Kurtz-Costes, Rowley, 2007). However, it is not clear whether the effects of racial socialization are unique or due to common features shared by racial socialization and general parenting qualities such as communication and trust. Thus, the present study examined the unique effects of racial socialization messages and general positive parenting on depressive symptoms and aggressive behavior, and whether racial socialization offers protection beyond that conferred by general positive parenting. Participants were a sample of 106 African American adolescent-mother dyads residing in a mid-eastern metropolitan district. Differential effects of racial socialization messages and general positive parenting were found for depressive symptoms and aggressive behavior. Parental messages promoting Black history and teachings and positive parenting marked by communication and trust were uniquely and negatively associated with depressive symptoms. Contrary to expectation, messages emphasizing cultural coping with antagonism were positively associated with aggressive behavior, but this association between coping with antagonism and aggressive behavior was attenuated after accounting for the other racial socialization messages. In addition, cultural coping with antagonism was positively associated with depressive symptoms after accounting for the other racial socialization messages. African American parents' messages emphasizing cultural pride and alertness to discrimination protected African American adolescents against the effects of racial discrimination on depressive symptoms, but not aggressive behavior. These findings have implications for preventive interventions focused on African American adolescents and their families.

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