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Discrimination, Depression, & Racial Identity in African American Adolescents Open Access

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The current study explored the relationships among racial discrimination, depression and racial identity in a sample of 82 African American middle school students. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites depression as the leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide. Exposure to racial discrimination may be an important factor in the development of depressive symptoms and poor self-esteem in African American youth. Research suggests that racial identity may play a role in combatting the deleterious effects of racial discrimination, due to the belief that having positive feelings towards one’s racial identity can enhance self-esteem and promote resilience. Research suggests that racial identity may function as a promotive, compensatory and/or protective factor against racial discrimination in African American youth. The results indicated that both frequency of racial discrimination and experiencing racial discrimination stress were risk factors for depressive symptoms, but when examined together, only discrimination frequency was a significant predictor of depressive symptoms. Public regard was found to be a promotive factor for reducing depressive symptoms, but private regard was not. Low public regard was associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms (compensatory), but private regard was not a protective factor against racial discrimination. Racial discrimination frequency and stress were found to be a risk factor for depressive symptoms and public regard was also found to be promotive. While all hypotheses were not supported, this study helped to clarify whether racial identity could serve promotive, compensatory, and/or protective roles against the deleterious impact of racial discrimination in an early adolescent African American sample and has implications for developing more tailored interventions to combat racial discrimination in this group.

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