Racism continues to be a major source of stress for African Americans and can impair psychological functioning. Adolescents experiencing discrimination may engage in self-soothing, but risky behaviors, which leave them at risk for negative life trajectories. Black pride has been identified as a key factor in explaining the heterogeneity in responses to discrimination. Racial socialization, strategies parents use to promote Black pride and protect youth from discrimination, is an important focus of family-based prevention programs serving African American families. This study tests the efficacy of a culturally tailored preventive intervention for rural African American families to disrupt the negative consequences of discrimination on adolescent psychological functioning. Four waves of data from the Strong African American Families (SAAF) efficacy trial (Murry & Brody in Journal of Marital & Family Therapy 30(3):271-283, 2004) with 667 African American families in rural Georgia were used for this study. Structural equation modeling was used to test study hypotheses. Adolescent experiences with discrimination at age 15 predicted concurrent psychological functioning and multiple risk behaviors at age 16, including sexual risk behavior, substance use problems, academic failure, and juvenile justice involvement. Mediation analyses demonstrated that psychological functioning was a significant mediator of these relations. The SAAF program was associated with increases in racial socialization, which in turn fostered gains in adolescent Black pride. Black pride was indirectly associated with reduced risk behavior through adolescent psychological functioning, but Black pride did not moderate the effect of discrimination on psychological functioning. This study confirms that family-based prevention can support African American adolescent mental health in the context of discrimination. However, more emphasis on reducing exposure to discrimination is needed.
- African Americans
- Evidence-based prevention
- Racial socialization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health