Generational status, racial, and ethnic identity, and psychological well-being among Afro-Caribbean college students

Crystall J Matthews, Fordham University


The aim of this study was to contribute to research on cultural factors related to mental health in Afro-Caribbeans college students. This research investigated Afro-Caribbean heritage (i.e., new immigrant, first-, second- and third-generation Jamaicans and Trinidadians) and its relationship to levels of ethnic identity, racial identity, parental socialization and discrimination distress. The study examined how these cultural factors impact self-esteem and mental health. The reviewed research indicates that cultural factors are related to self-esteem and mental health in Black students. However, there is a paucity of research on how cultural factors relate to mental health in specific populations of Blacks such as Afro-Caribbeans. Most research on Blacks in the psychological literature does not delineate the differences among varying groups of Blacks and in doing so ignores important cultural factors by failing to recognize the unique history and culture for different ethnicities of Blacks. Furthermore, the few studies that do compare Blacks of different historical and cultural heritages, such as the NSAL study found differences in the prevalence rates of mental disorders. For example, the NSAL study found that African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans have differences in prevalence rates of mental health disorders and that there were also differences in the prevalence rates of mental disorders across generational statuses of Afro-Caribbeans. The paucity of research on Afro-Caribbeans and the report of varying prevalence rates for mental disorders for African American and Afro-Caribbeans provided the rationale for investigating how generational status and cultural factors impact psychological well-being in Afro-Caribbeans. Jamaicans and Trinidadians were recruited for the study because they represent the highest population of English-speaking Afro-Caribbeans in the U.S. The present researchers did not want language to be a confounding variable. This study had 243 Afro-Caribbean college student participants that were between the ages of 18 and 22. They completed an online anonymous survey, whereby they completed measures that assessed ethnic identity, racial identity, parental socialization, discrimination distress, self-esteem and psychological distress. They also provided demographic information about their generational status, religion, college, family, neighborhood and cultural activities. Results of the study indicated that cultural factors do impact self-esteem and mental health in Afro-Caribbean college students. The regression analyses indicated that higher ethnic identity and a more developed racial identity contributes to self-esteem. In addition ethnic identity acted as a protective factor from psychological distress. A less developed racial identity attitude and parental socialization messages about racial barriers were found to contribute toward psychological distress. However, Afro-Caribbeans across generational statuses did not report any differences in levels of self-esteem or psychological distress. This study highlights the importance of developing research on how cultural factor relate to mental health in varying ethnicities of Blacks. It would be interesting to extend this study to also comparing African Americans to Afro-Caribbeans. Extending this research can further elucidate and inform intervention methods aimed at fostering the mental health of Blacks in the U.S.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Matthews, Crystall J, "Generational status, racial, and ethnic identity, and psychological well-being among Afro-Caribbean college students" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3560123.