Date of Award

12-1-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Whaley, Rachal

Abstract

Racial discrimination continues to be a major issue, particularly in the lives of minorities. In the United States, racial discrimination significantly influences many aspects of minorities’ lives such as physical health, psychological health, access to jobs, and access to higher education. In this research, discrimination is conceptualized as a psychological stressor in the lives of minority adolescents since it poses a risk to healthy adolescent development; it can lead to feelings of helplessness, derogation, and demoralization. Using a cross-sectional sample of 618 African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, and drawing on the integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children, risk and resilience, social identity, and intersectionality, this paper examines (a) the relationship between racial discrimination and mental health problems of pre-adolescents and adolescents, (b) the moderating role of the importance of racial/ethnic identity, religious importance, and other support factors, (c) the moderating influence of gender and (d) the moderating influence of neighborhood factors. Results indicate that worrying about discrimination, having a negative future outlook, high levels of policing in the neighborhood, poverty, and experiences of violence, increased depression. In contrast, importance of ethnicity, having a close relationship with parents, and the availability of services for youths, reduced depression for adolescents. In addition, experiences of violence moderated the effect of discrimination on depression for Hispanic girls only. Results for aggression indicate that negative future outlook, and experiences of violence, significantly increased aggression, while importance of ethnicity, and having a close relationship with parents decreased aggression. In addition, importance of ethnicity moderated the effect of parental closeness, while the availability of services for youths, moderated the effect of worrying about discrimination for African-American girls only. Results for withdrawal, indicate that worrying about discrimination, having a negative future outlook, high levels of policing in the neighborhood, and experiences of violence increased withdrawal. In contrast, importance of ethnicity, importance of religion, and having a close relationship with parents, reduced withdrawal for adolescents. For African-American boys only, the importance of religion moderated the effect of discrimination, while the importance of ethnicity moderated the effect of parental closeness. For Hispanic girls only, the availability of services for youths moderated the effect of discrimination.

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