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Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol. 2014 Jan;20(1):75-86. doi: 10.1037/a0033352. Epub 2013 Jul 8.

Appraisals of discriminatory events among adult offspring of Indian residential school survivors: the influences of identity centrality and past perceptions of discrimination.

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The University of Ottawa, Institute of Mental Health Research.
Department of Psychology, Carleton University.
Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University.


As part of a government policy of assimilation beginning in the mid-1800s, a large proportion of Aboriginal children in Canada were forcibly removed from their homes to attend Indian Residential Schools (IRSs), a practice which continued into the 1990s. This traumatic experience had lasting negative effects not only on those who attended but also on their offspring, who were previously found to report higher levels of perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms compared with Aboriginal adults whose families were not directly affected by IRSs. In attempt to elucidate the processes involved in these previous findings, the current study (N = 399) revealed that greater levels of past perceptions of discrimination among IRS offspring, together with their greater likelihood of considering their Aboriginal heritage to be a central component of their self-concept (i.e., high identity centrality), were associated with an increased likelihood of appraising subsequent negative intergroup scenarios to be a result of discrimination and as threatening to their well-being. In turn, these altered appraisals of threat in response to the scenarios were associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms relative to non-IRS adults. The apparent reinforcing relationships between past discrimination, identity centrality, and appraisals of discrimination and threat in intergroup interactions highlight the need for interventions targeting this cycle that appears to contribute to heightened psychological distress among offspring of those who were directly victimized by collective race-based traumas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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