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Ethn Health. 2012;17(1-2):71-87. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2011.645153. Epub 2012 Feb 14.

Racism, ethnic density and psychological well-being through adolescence: evidence from the Determinants of Adolescent Social Well-Being and Health longitudinal study.

Author information

1
Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Medical Research Council, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ, UK. t.astell-burt@sphsu.mrc.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To investigate the effect of racism, own-group ethnic density, diversity and deprivation on adolescent trajectories in psychological well-being.

DESIGN:

Multilevel models were used in longitudinal analysis of psychological well-being (total difficulties score (TDS) from Goodman's Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, higher scores correspond to greater difficulties) for 4782 adolescents aged 11-16 years in 51 London (U.K.) schools. Individual level variables included ethnicity, racism, gender, age, migrant generation, socio-economic circumstances, family type and indicators of family interactions (shared activities, perceived parenting). Contextual variables were per cent eligible for free school-meals, neighbourhood deprivation, per cent own-group ethnic density, and ethnic diversity.

RESULTS:

Ethnic minorities were more likely to report racism than whites. Ethnic minority boys (except Indian boys) and Indian girls reported better psychological well-being throughout adolescence compared to their white peers. Notably, lowest mean TDS scores were observed for Nigerian/Ghanaian boys, among whom the reporting of racism increased with age. Adjusted for individual characteristics, psychological well-being improved with age across all ethnic groups. Racism was associated with poorer psychological well-being trajectories for all ethnic groups (p<0.001), reducing with age. For example, mean difference in TDS (95% confidence interval) between boys who experienced racism and those who did not at age 12 years=1.88 (+1.75 to +2.01); at 16 years = +1.19 (+1.07 to +1.31). Less racism was generally reported in schools and neighbourhoods with high than low own-group density. Own ethnic density and diversity were not consistently associated with TDS for any ethnic group. Living in more deprived neighbourhoods was associated with poorer psychological well-being for whites and black Caribbeans (p<0.05).

CONCLUSION:

Racism, but not ethnic density and deprivation in schools or neighbourhoods, was an important influence on psychological well-being. However, exposure to racism did not explain the advantage in psychological well-being of ethnic minority groups over whites.

PMID:
22332834
PMCID:
PMC3379740
DOI:
10.1080/13557858.2011.645153
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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