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Ethn Health. 2013;18(4):337-49. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2012.730609. Epub 2012 Oct 9.

Perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, problem behaviors, and mental health among minority urban youth.

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  • 1College of Medicine, Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, Institute for Child Health Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.



We examined perceived frequency and intensity of racial/ethnic discrimination and associations with high-risk behaviors/conditions among adolescents.


With surveys from 2490 racial/ethnic minority adolescents primarily with low socioeconomic status, we used regression analysis to examine associations between racial/ethnic discrimination and behavioral health outcomes (alcohol use, marijuana use, physical aggression, delinquency, victimization, depression, suicidal ideation, and sexual behaviors).


Most adolescents (73%) experienced racial/ethnic discrimination and 42% of experiences were 'somewhat-' or 'very disturbing.' Adolescents reporting frequent and disturbing racial/ethnic discrimination were at increased risk of all measured behaviors, except alcohol and marijuana use. Adolescents who experienced any racial/ethnic discrimination were at increased risk for victimization and depression. Regardless of intensity, adolescents who experienced racial/ethnic discrimination at least occasionally were more likely to report greater physical aggression, delinquency, suicidal ideation, younger age at first oral sex, unprotected sex during last intercourse, and more lifetime sexual partners.


Most adolescents had experienced racial/ethnic discrimination due to their race/ethnicity. Even occasional experiences of racial/ethnic discrimination likely contribute to maladaptive behavioral and mental health outcomes among adolescents. Prevention and coping strategies are important targets for intervention.

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