Racial discrimination experienced by Black parents: Enduring mental health consequences for adolescent youth

Objective: Despite evidence linking experiences of racial discrimination by Black parents and problem behaviors in youth, little is known about the mechanisms that explain this link. To elucidate these developmental pathways, a serial mediation model was tested, in which Black parents' experiences of racial discrimination were hypothesized to predict increased parental depression and parent-child conflict in early adolescence, which in turn would be associated with youth depression, anxiety, and conduct problems in early to mid-adolescence.

Method: Participants were 252 Black parent-child dyads. Youth (56% female) were on average 11.98 years old at study entry (wave 1). Parents and youth completed questionnaires during a home-based assessment at wave 1 and were assessed again 1 and 2 years later (waves 2 and 3).

Results: Black parents' experiences of racial discrimination at wave 1 were linked to higher levels of parent-child conflict at wave 2 (0.20; 95% CI [0.05, 0.33]), which in turn predicted greater youth-reported depression at wave 3 (0.30; 95% CI [0.15, 0.47]). There was a significant indirect effect of racial discrimination on youth-reported depression via parent-child conflict (indirect effect: 0.06, 95% CI [0.02, 0.10]). Findings were replicated across multiple outcomes (ie, depression, anxiety, conduct problems) and multiple informants (ie, youth report, parent report). There was no evidence to support a serial mediation model via parental depression and then parent-child conflict.

Conclusion: This study identified a developmental pathway from Black parents' experiences of racial discrimination to adolescent problem behaviors via parent-child conflict. Findings may inform interventions aimed at promoting resilience in parents and youth faced with pervasive racism.