Discrimination Matters: Relations of Perceived Discrimination to Student Mental Health

  • Mollie R. WeeksEmail author
  • Amanda L. Sullivan
Original Paper


Although instances of discrimination are increasing across US schools, little is known about the relations of discrimination to mental health outcomes across the full range of school ages or how experiences of discrimination interact with various sociodemographic characteristics. This study entailed analysis of data from approximately 60,700 respondents to the 2011–2012 National Survey of Children’s Health to explore the associations between racial/ethnic discrimination and depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder for children and youth ages 6–17. Multivariate logistic regression indicated that experiencing racial discrimination was associated with significantly increased odds of having a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety problems, and behavior disorders. Moreover, an interaction effect was observed between discrimination, race, and anxiety. No interactions were observed for variables related to age groupings. Implications for school-based mental health practitioners and researchers are discussed.


Racial discrimination Externalizing disorders Internalizing disorders School-based mental health services Social-emotional wellbeing 



Data analyses, interpretations, and conclusions are credited to the author and not the NSCH which was only responsible for initial data collection. The contents of this report were developed under a grant from the US Department of Education, # H325D160016. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Sarah J. Allen, Ph.D. Special thanks are due to the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement student consultants for assistance with data analysis and imputation pooling.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School Psychology Program, Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education and Human DevelopmentUniversity of Minnesota – Twin CitiesMinneapolisUSA

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