The purpose of this study was to examine whether girls of color (GOC) had more or less social support than their peers and whether that affected their likelihood of experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The National Comorbidity Survey – Adolescent Supplement (n = 10,123) is a nationally representative study of mental disorder in US adolescents. GOC made up roughly 10% of the sample (n = 1,016). Structural equation models were used to analyze the relationship between family support and psychological distress for the entire sample and then analyzed for GOC, boys of color, White girls and boys, and Latino girls and boys to compare across groups. Because of the inextricable relationship between socioeconomic status and race, three-way interactions between class, race, and gender were used to examine class differences within groups.
Path analysis revealed the following: (1) among adolescents with both low and high socioeconomic status, GOC had significantly less family support than their peers; (2) surprisingly, despite the fact that GOC had significantly less family support than their peers, they were not more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Research limitations include cross-sectional data and limited measures. However, this study adds to the understanding of adolescent mental health and mental health of vulnerable adolescent populations. This is important because mental disorders, particularly anxiety and depression, are increasing in prevalence among American youth, and youth with multiple social disadvantages may be more likely to experience them.
Originality/Value of Paper
GOC, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, were at a marked disadvantage regarding their perceptions of social support, a known buffer of anxiety and depression. Yet despite this disadvantage, GOC were no more likely to experience a mood disorder than their peers. These findings suggest the following: (1) family support may have less of a protective effect on the mental health of GOC than their peers; (2) GOC may be using other resources to protect their mental health; and (3) as mental health patients, GOC require unique interventions.
Bennefield, Z.C. (2019), "Disadvantage Begets Disadvantage? Exploring Mental Health Pathways for Girls of Color", Underserved and Socially Disadvantaged Groups and Linkages with Health and Health Care Differentials (Research in the Sociology of Health Care, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 15-32. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0275-495920190000037005
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