Impact of Discrimination on Adolescent Well-Being: The Mediating Roles of American and Ethnic-Racial Identities

Candace J Mootoo, Fordham University


Based on a sample of multi-ethnic adolescents, the purpose of this longitudinal study was (1) to examine the impact of ethnic-racial discrimination (ERD) on the private regard and centrality dimensions of both ethnic-racial identity (ERI) and American identity, (2) to determine the impact of these social identity variables on three indicators of mental health status: depressive symptoms, interpersonal conflict, and sleep quality, (3) to examine the potentially mediating role of these social identity variables in the associations between ERD and mental health outcomes and finally, (4) to investigate the extent to which sociocultural variables moderated the proposed mediation effect. Self-report data were collected from a multi-ethnic sample of 310 adolescents over three time points spanning a period of one year. Analyses centered on use of structural equation models to investigate the aforementioned effects. Though results did not provide direct support for a mediating role of the social identity variables in the association between ERD and mental health, results supported the extant literature, finding a significant negative impact of ERD and a positive impact of ERI private regard on depressive symptoms, measured one year and six months later, respectively. Results also elucidated impacts of ERD on ERI, measured six months later, that approached statistical significance– namely that ERD trended towards predicting an increase in ERI centrality and a decrease in ERI private regard. Also approaching statistical significance were negative impacts of ERI private regard on sleep quality, measured six months later. Gender emerged as an important factor, as findings that approached significance concerning ERI private regard were based on sub-samples that were comprised largely of adolescent girls, cohering with growing literature illustrating differential impacts of ERD and ERI by gender. Finally, the proposed sociocultural moderator variables – ethnic-racial group, nativity, and school ethnic-racial composition – were found to be significant moderators of the direct associations between social identity variables and both interpersonal conflict and sleep quality. Findings suggest that these moderating factors are key to understanding the meaning and impact of ERI and American identity for youth mental health.

Subject Area

Psychology|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Mootoo, Candace J, "Impact of Discrimination on Adolescent Well-Being: The Mediating Roles of American and Ethnic-Racial Identities" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI27540626.