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The Impact of Racial Discrimination and Coping Strategies on Internalizing Symptoms in African American Youth

Abstract

The current study examined the impact of racial discrimination stress on internalizing symptoms and coping strategies in a sample of 268 African American early adolescents (mean age = 12.90; 56% female) from low-income communities. Information about discrimination stress, coping, and internalizing symptoms was obtained via adolescents’ self-report. It was predicted that discrimination stress would be positively associated with depression and anxiety, as well as culturally-specific coping. Finally, culturally-relevant coping and mainstream coping were examined as moderators of the association between discrimination stress and internalizing symptoms. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that discrimination stress was positively associated with depression and anxiety and predicted culturally-relevant coping while controlling for mainstream coping. Communalistic coping moderated the association between discrimination and anxiety, but demonstrated a vulnerability function by increasing anxiety at high levels of discrimination. The results highlight the salience of racial discrimination for African American adolescents and the importance of considering culturally-specific coping behaviors.

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Correspondence to Noni K. Gaylord-Harden.

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Gaylord-Harden, N.K., Cunningham, J.A. The Impact of Racial Discrimination and Coping Strategies on Internalizing Symptoms in African American Youth. J Youth Adolescence 38, 532–543 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-008-9377-5

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Keywords

  • African American
  • Adolescents
  • Racial discrimination
  • Coping
  • Internalizing symptoms