School-based racial discrimination experiences, high-effort coping, and African American adolescent mental health

Jelsma, Elizabeth Burke
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Experiencing racial discrimination at school from teachers and peers is a common occurrence for African American adolescents, and researchers have found direct associations between African American adolescents’ reported racial discrimination at school and higher psychological distress. The purpose of the current study was to illuminate how an effortful approach to coping with racial discrimination (high-effort coping) buffers the relations between school-based racial discrimination and African American adolescent mental health. Using data from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study (MADICS), a longitudinal study of an economically diverse sample of African American adolescents, the current study tests these relations across middle to late adolescence. Moderation by gender and socioeconomic status (SES) was also examined. High-effort coping reduced the magnitude of the association between teacher-perpetrated racial discrimination and increased anger among females and high-SES adolescents. High-effort coping also buffered against the influence of teacher-perpetrated racial discrimination on suicide ideation for low-SES adolescents. As the first study to examine the role of high-effort coping for African American adolescent mental health, the present findings demonstrate this may be an effective coping strategy for dealing with school-based racial discrimination for certain youth. Implications for health outcomes and school-based interventions are discussed.