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School Discrimination and Changes in Latinx Adolescents’ Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms

Abstract

U.S. Latinx youth are growing up in an environment characterized by increased anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric, including experiences of discrimination. Given the salience of the school setting for youth’s development, it is important to understand how experiences of discrimination by teachers and other adults at school, or school discrimination, relate to the emotional and behavioral adjustment of today’s Latinx adolescents. Study participants include 547 Latinx adolescents selected at random from a large, suburban school district in Atlanta, Georgia (55.4% female; age M = 12.8, range = 11–16). Youth provided two time points of survey data spaced roughly 6 months apart during 2018 and 2019. Structural equation models (SEM) were used to test the main and interaction effects of school discrimination and parental support on later internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Multiple group SEM was used to investigate gender differences in pathways to adolescent adjustment. More school discrimination was related to more internalizing and externalizing symptoms at a later time point. Greater parental support was associated with fewer internalizing symptoms, but did not moderate associations between school discrimination and adolescent outcomes. Pathways to adolescent outcomes were similar for males and females. Study results suggest that discrimination by teachers and other adults at school is an important source of adversity potentially jeopardizing Latinx youth’s emotional and behavioral adjustment. Future research is needed to identify factors that mitigate potentially harmful consequences of discrimination for Latinx adolescents.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Roushanac Partovi, MPH at The George Washington University for her careful and difficult work on recruitment, the calculation of response and retention rates, data cleaning, collection, and management, and for her contributions to measurement and structural models.

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Contributions

M.B. conceived the study, conducted analyses, and drafted the manuscript; K.M.R. secured funding for, designed, and implemented Caminos, the parent study from which data for the current study were collected, and contributed to the design of the current study, interpretation of findings, and drafting the manuscript; D.M.H. and S.F.L. contributed to the design of the current study and assisted in critical revisions of the manuscript for intellectual content. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This work was funded by research grant R01 HD090232 (PI: Roche) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but will be available from the corresponding author at a later date.

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Correspondence to Morgane Bennett.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Investigators obtained a Certificate of Confidentiality from the National Institutes of Health and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from The George Washington University.

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Informed parental consent and youth assent was obtained for all study participants.

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Bennett, M., Roche, K.M., Huebner, D.M. et al. School Discrimination and Changes in Latinx Adolescents’ Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms. J Youth Adolescence 49, 2020–2033 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01256-4

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Keywords

  • Minority population
  • Discrimination
  • Internalizing and externalizing symptoms
  • Social support