Ethnic Identity and Regional Differences in Mental Health in a National Sample of African American Young Adults

  • Monnica T. Williams
  • Gerardo Duque
  • Chad T. Wetterneck
  • L. Kevin Chapman
  • Ryan C. T. DeLapp


Prior research has found that a strong positive ethnic identity is a protective factor against anxiety and depression in African Americans. In this study, ethnic identity is examined in a geographically representative sample of African American young adults (n = 242), using the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) (Phinney in J Adolescent Res 7:156–76, 15). The two-factor structure of the measure (Roberts et al. in J Early Adolescence 19:301–22, 1) was analyzed using a structural equation model and displayed an acceptable fit only when multiple error terms were correlated. A multigroup confirmatory factor analysis revealed measurement equivalence of the two-factor structure between African Americans from Southern and non-Southern regions of the USA. We found that significantly higher levels of ethnic identity were present among African American in the South compared to other regions, and region significantly predicted total ethnic identity scores in a linear regression, even when controlling for gender, age, urbanicity, and years of education. Furthermore, among African Americans, living in the South was significantly correlated with less help-seeking for diagnosed depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder, where help-seeking was defined as obtaining a diagnosis by a professional. The role of ethnic identity and social support are discussed in the context of African American mental health.


Ethnic identity African Americans Measurement Assessment Ethnic differences Regional differences Mental health 


Compliance of Ethical Standards


This study was funded by the National Institute of Health NRSA Pre-Doctoral Training Grant 1 F31 MH70175-01A1 (PI: M. Williams). Data was collected by Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, NSF Grant 0818839 (PIs: Jeremy Freese and Penny Visser).

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board (IRB) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Sciences and HumanitiesUniversity of Houston-Clear LakeHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Rogers Memorial HospitalOconomowocUSA
  4. 4.Center for Mental Health Disparities, Department of Psychological & Brain SciencesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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