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Andrew Roth-Heinlein, Beth A. Kotchick, Ph.D.

The Association between Perceived Discrimination, Self-Esteem, and Externalizing Problems: An Examination of Racial Identity as a Protective Factor and Trait Anger as a Risk Factor

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Racial discrimination has been found to significantly contribute to psychological and behavioral problems such as delinquent behavior (Prelow et al., 2004) and depression and anxiety in African American youth (Bynum, Best, Barnes, & Burton, 2008). Perceived racial discrimination, which is defined as the severity of psychological and physical consequences of oppressive treatment depending on an individual’s perceptions of these actions, (Williams et al., 2003) has been linked to numerous and consistent negative outcomes in victimized African American youth. These include impaired coping, diminished self-esteem, and depression (Seaton et al., 2009) and anxiety symptoms among African American adolescents (Bynum et al., 2008).

Private regard, a subcomponent of racial identity, has been strongly tied to more general indicators of well-being for minority youth, and found to buffer against everyday stress by promoting resiliency and coping (Kiang, Yip, Gonzales-Bracken, Witkow, & Fuligini, 2006). Private regard refers to the evaluative judgments an individual has about being a member of his or her respective race as well as whether they feel positively or negatively about his or her race in general (Sellers et al., 1998).
Higher levels of reported private regard have also been found to buffer against the detrimental consequences of discrimination, such as depressive symptoms, in African American adolescents (Seaton, 2009).

Researchers have primarily focused on the association between perceived racial discrimination and negative psychological outcomes in African American adults while empirical findings with youth remain scant.
Additionally, little is known about the potential relationship between private regard and wellness and coping in African American youth.

This study was designed to examine the association between perceived discrimination and self-esteem and externalizing problems in African American youth, and evaluate trait anger as a mediator, as well as to evaluate whether private regard moderates the association between trait anger and self-esteem and externalizing behaviors, independently.

To date, survey data has been collected from thirty-three African American participants between the ages of twelve and seventeen, who were recruited from Baltimore, Maryland area youth programs and private schools.  Surveys included measures of perceived discrimination, trait anger, private regard, self-esteem, and externalizing behavior. Data will be analyzed to test the following hypotheses: (1) There will be a positive association between PD and externalizing problems; (2) There will be a negative association between PD and self-esteem; (3) Trait anger will mediate the relationships between PD and externalizing problems as well as PD and self-esteem; (4) Private regard will moderate the mediation model involving the above stated association between trait anger and self-esteem and externalizing problems in that the proposed relations between trait anger and self-esteem and externalizing problems, respectively, will be attenuated when private regard is higher.

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