Mandara etal 2009

Mandara etal 2009 - Child Development, November/December...

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The Effects of Changes in Racial Identity and Self-Esteem on Changes in African American Adolescents’ Mental Health Jelani Mandara Northwestern University Noni K. Gaylord-Harden Loyola University Chicago Maryse H. Richards Loyola University Chicago Brian L. Ragsdale Walden University This study assessed the unique effects of racial identity and self-esteem on 259 African American adolescents’ depressive and anxiety symptoms as they transitioned from the 7th to 8th grades (ages 12–14). Racial identity and self-esteem were strongly correlated with each other for males but not for females. For both males and females, an increase in racial identity over the 1 year was associated with a decrease in the prevalence of depressive symptoms over the same period, even with self-esteem controlled. It was concluded that racial identity may be as important as self-esteem to the mental health of African American adolescents, and it explains variance in their mental health not associated with feelings of oneself as an individual. A critical developmental task of adolescence is the formation of a cohesive and positive sense of self. Adolescents higher in self-esteem tend to have bet- ter mental health and are more resilient in the face of adversity compared to those low in self-esteem (Compas, Hinden, & Gerhardt, 1995; DuBois et al., 2002). In the early research on African American identity development, self-esteem was commingled with racial preferences and racial identity to such a degree that it was difficult to determine the impor- tance of one’s beliefs and feelings about their per- sonal attributes relative to their beliefs and feelings about their racial group (Whaley, 1993). Counter to this perspective, several theorists have long argued that one’s self-concept consists of an individual identity domain and a group identity domain, which are related but also conceptually distinct (Cross, 1991; McAdoo, 1985; Spencer, 1982). These ‘‘two-factor’’ models of identity suggest that Afri- can American youth have the ability to separate or compartmentalize feelings toward their race from feelings about themselves as individuals. Thus, many theorists questioned the assumption that one’s perceptions and feelings of their racial group, or racial identity, is a proxy for one’s self-esteem (Cross, 1991; McAdoo, 1985; Spencer, 1982). Once self-report measures became more stan- dard, two important strands of research emerged. One strand directly assessed the effects of self- reported self-esteem on African American adoles- cent and adult mental health, without regard to racial identity. Another strand attempted to further disentangle racial identity from self-esteem and examine their interrelation, as well as the impor- tance of racial identity to African American adoles- cent and adult mental health in general (see Cross, 1991, for a review). Many important findings about the identity development of African Americans emerged from this research (Murray & Mandara, 2001). However, many of the most theoretically and practically important questions have yet to be answered. For instance, few studies have examined
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Mandara etal 2009 - Child Development, November/December...

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