Racial discrimination and racial identity

We have explored the relationship between racial identity and several outcomes. A positive sense of racial identity helps protect African American youth against the negative effects of risk factors for negative outcomes. Racial identity also helps enhance positive youth development.

We found that:

  • A strong racial identity was associated with less psychological distress, less violent behavior, and greater academic achievement
  • Racial identity helps youth avoid the negative effects of discrimination on psychological distress
  • Racial identity is vital for adolescent resiliency in the face of risks for violent behavior
  • Neighborhood racial composition can influence mental health over time

An image of the racial identity findings info graphic

Related publications

2018

Lee, D. B., Heinze, J. E., Neblett, E. W., Caldwell, C. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2018). Trajectories of Racial Discrimination That Predict Problematic Alcohol Use Among African American Emerging Adults. Emerging Adulthood, 6(5), 347–357. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696817739022
Lee, D. B., Peckins, M. K., Miller, A. L., Hope, M. O., Neblett, E. W., Assari, S., Muñoz-Velázquez, J., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2018). Pathways from racial discrimination to cortisol/DHEA imbalance: protective role of religious involvement. Ethnicity & Health, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/13557858.2018.1520815
Lee, D. B., Hope, M. O., Heinze, J. E., Cunningham, M., Caldwell, C. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2018). Psychological pathway from racial discrimination to the physical consequences of alcohol consumption: Religious coping as a protective factor. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 0(0), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332640.2018.1540956

2017

Assari, S., Moazen-Zadeh, E., Caldwell, C. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2017). Racial Discrimination during Adolescence Predicts Mental Health Deterioration in Adulthood: Gender Differences among Blacks. Frontiers in Public Health, 5, 104. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2017.00104

2015

Assari, S., Moghani Lankarani, M., Malekahmadi, M. R., Caldwell, C. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2015). Baseline religion involvement predicts subsequent salivary cortisol levels among male but not female Black youth. International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 13(4). https://doi.org/10.5812/ijem.31790

2014

Hurd, N. M., Varner, F. A., Caldwell, C. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2014). Does perceived racial discrimination predict changes in psychological distress and substance use over time? An examination among Black emerging adults. Dev Psychol, 50(7), 1910–1918. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036438

2013

Hurd, N. M., Sellers, R. M., Cogburn, C. D., Butler-Barnes, S. T., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2013). Racial identity and depressive symptoms among Black emerging adults: The moderating effects of neighborhood racial composition. Dev Psychol, 49(5), 938–950. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028826

2012

Estrada-Martinez, L. M., Caldwell, C. H., Bauermeister, J. A., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2012). Stressors in multiple life-domains and the risk for externalizing and internalizing behaviors among african americans during emerging adulthood. J Youth Adolesc, 41(12), 1600–1612. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9778-3
Hurd, N. M., Sanchez, B., Zimmerman, M. A., & Caldwell, C. H. (2012). Natural mentors, racial identity, and educational attainment among African American adolescents: exploring pathways to success. Child Dev, 83(4), 1196–1212. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01769.x

2011

Butler-Barnes, S. T., Chavous, T. M., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2011). Exposure to Violence and Achievement Motivation Beliefs: Moderating Roles of Cultural-Ecological Factors. Race and Social Problems, 3(2), 17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-011-9044-4

2004

Caldwell, C. H., Kohn-Wood, L. P., Schmeelk-Cone, K. H., Chavous, T. M., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2004). Racial discrimination and racial identity as risk or protective factors for violent behaviors in African American young adults. American Journal of Community Psychology, 33(1–2), 91–105.
Caldwell, C. H., Sellers, R. M., Bernat, D. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2004). Racial identity, parental support and alcohol use in a sample of academically at-risk African American high school students. American Journal of Community Psychology, 34(1–2), 71–82.

2003

Chavous, T. M., Bernat, D. H., Schmeelk-Cone, K. H., Caldwell, C. H., Kohn-Wood, L. P., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2003). Racial identity and academic attainment among African American adolescents. Child Development, 74(4), 1076–1090.
Sellers, R. M., Caldwell, C. H., Schmeelk-Cone, K. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2003). Racial identity, racial discrimination, perceived stress, and psychological distress among African American young adults. Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 44(3), 302–317.

2002

Caldwell, C. H., Zimmerman, M. A., Bernat, D. H., Sellers, R. M., & Notaro, P. C. (2002). Racial identity, maternal support, and psychological distress among African American adolescents. Child Development, 73(4), 1322–1336.