Racial differences in adolescent distress: Differential effects of the family and community for blacks and whites

K. A.S. Wickrama, Samuel Noh, Chalandra M. Bryant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using a sample of 15,885 adolescents derived from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this study examined (1) unique additive influences of race, family, and community and (2) various multiplicative influences among race, family, and community factors on adolescent distress. Community characteristics such as community poverty and ethnic composition were included in the analysis. Community poverty, family poverty, single parenthood, family site, and race/ethnicity all uniquely contributed to adolescent distress. There were significant black-white differences in additive and multiplicative influences of these predictors. The detrimental influence of family poverty was stronger for whites than for blacks. Among blacks, the detrimental influence of community poverty is greater for poor families than for nonpoor families. In contrast, among whites, the detrimental influence of community adversity is greater for nonpoor families than for poor families. Although ethnic composition had no significant impact on adolescent distress for the total sample, it showed a beneficial effect for black adolescents, after controlling for the poverty levels of the communities. Seemingly, community poverty and ethnic composition influence adolescent distress differently through different mechanisms. Understanding these complex processes raise some practical questions about programs aimed at minorities. For example, do black children fare better if their family overcomes persistent poverty and moves out of adverse communities?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-282
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Community Psychology
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes

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