Depressive Mood in Black and White Female Adolescents

Article excerpt

The past two decades have seen a large increase in epidemiological and community surveys of children's and adolescents' general health and mental health (Cockerham, 1990; Garrison, Schuluchter, Schoenback & Kaplan, 1989; Stavrakaki & Gaudet, 1989). Depending upon the investigator's interests, the relationships between general health and mental health status and various demographic variables have been studied. Although race has been routinely included in such studies, the findings regarding this variable have been inconclusive. Whereas some investigations indicate that race is a significant correlate (Garrison et al. 1989; Johnson, 1989; Martinez & Dukes, 1987; Levinson, Powell & Stillman, 1986), others have not found significant relationships (Davis, 1988; Doerfler, Felner, Rowlinson, & Raley, 1988; Garber, 1984), or have suggested that race becomes a factor when combined with socioeconomic status (Cockerham, 1990; Cairns, Cairns, & Neckerman, 1989; Gibbs, 1985). Several of these studies have used psychiatric diagnosis or psychological symptoms as the criterion for establishing groups. It might be useful, therefore, to compare nonclinical racial groups on normative, preclinical variables that are known to be associated with general health or mental health. Depressive mood is such a variable.

Depressive affect or mood has been found to be significantly related to morbidity and mortality in the case of renal disease (Numan, Barklin, & Lubin, 1981), and to general health status (Lubin, Zuckerman, Breytspraak, Bull, Gumbhir, & Rinck, 1988). Depressive affect also significantly predicts major affective illness (Zuckerman, Lubin, Rinck, Soliday, Albott, & Carlson, 1986). The Depression Adjective Check Lists (DACL; Lubin, 1981; in press) have been widely used to measure normative and pathological mood (Lubin, Swearngin, & Seaton, 1992). The purpose of this study, therefore, is to present data that bear on the question of the relationship between race and affect in adolescents by comparing the depressive affect of female black and white junior and senior high school students.

METHOD

Subjects

As part of a larger investigation, 21 white female adolescents (age: M = 15.1, SD = 2.0; education: M = 10.4, SD = 2.12) and 19 black female adolescents (age: M = 15.3, SD = 1.72; education: M = 10.1, SD = 2.10) from the same large midwestern, urban school served as subjects. The majority in each group were from the lower or lower middle socioeconomic class as inferred from their parents' occupations.

Instrument

The Depression Adjective Check Lists (DACL; Lubin, 1981; in press) consist of seven lists of adjectives arranged in two sets: each list of Set 1 (A, B, C, D) contains 32 nonrecurring adjectives with depressive or nondepressive connotations; each list of Set 2 (E, F, G), contains 34 nonrecurring adjectives with depressive or nondepressive connotations. There is a state version ("How You Feel Today") and a trait version ("How You Generally Feel"). Adequate reliability and validity of the state version (Lubin, Whitlock, McCollum, Thummel, Denman, & Powers, submitted) and the trait version (Lubin, McCollum, Whitlock, Thummel, Powers, & Davis, submitted) have been established for adolescents. The instrument has been reviewed favorably by Goodstein (1974) and Petzel (1985). The trait version of Set 2 of the DACL was used in this study.

Procedure

All subjects completed the DACL in their homerooms. The lists were administered in the following order: E, F, G.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Table 1 presents the means and standard deviations of the black and the two white female adolescent groups on Set 2 of the DACL. No significant differences were found between black and white female adolescent groups on age or education. Also, groups did not differ on depressive affect, although white adolescent female means in both samples on the three forms of the DACL were consistently higher. …