Perceived Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms: Is the Cognitive Triad a Moderator or Mediator?

  • Kate J. Berghuis
  • Patrick PösselEmail author
  • Caroline M. Pittard
Original Paper



The present study sought to determine whether the cognitive triad serves as a moderator or mediator in the association between perceived everyday discrimination (PED) and depressive symptoms among inner-city youth by examining if discrimination is related to both cognitive processes and depressive symptoms in adolescents. Previous research illustrated that by eighth grade, cognitive styles begin to moderate the relations of stressful events and depressive symptoms.


We hypothesized that PED and the cognitive triad interact in their association with depressive symptoms.


Participants included 232 ninth-grade students (M = 14.18 years, 38% female) from an inner-city public high school who completed measures examining PED, the cognitive triad, and depressive symptoms. Participants identified as Black or African American (46.5%), White or European American (37.0%), Mixed Race (12.2%), Other Race (2.6%), and Latino/a (1.7%).


A hierarchical linear regression testing the moderation model found PED and the cognitive triad to be significant predictors of depressive symptoms. The interaction effect, however, was non-significant, in contrast with our hypothesis. Additionally, a significant indirect effect of PED on depressive symptoms through the cognitive triad was established which supported a partial mediation.


Our findings support a partial mediation model in understanding the relationship between PED, the cognitive triad, and depressive symptoms. Based on this, psychologists should intervene on a societal level to reduce PED, as well as on an individual level with regard to modifying the cognitive triad in order to alleviate depressive symptoms in adolescents.


Discrimination Cognitive triad Depressive symptoms Adolescents 



This study was not supported by any funding and the authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional committee (University of BLINDED IRB; DRMS: 15.0318) and school system (BLINDED Public Schools Department for Accountability, Research, and Systems Improvement), and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling and Human DevelopmentUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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