Ethnic Minority-Majority Status and Mental Health: The Mediating Role of Perceived Discrimination

By Cokley, Kevin; Hall-Clark, Brittany et al. | Journal of Mental Health Counseling, July 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Ethnic Minority-Majority Status and Mental Health: The Mediating Role of Perceived Discrimination


Cokley, Kevin, Hall-Clark, Brittany, Hicks, Dana, Journal of Mental Health Counseling


This study examines the role of perceived discrimination as a mediator of the relationship between ethnic minority-majority status and mental health in a sample of college students, of whom 246 were members of an ethnic minority (African American, Latino American, or Asian American) and 167 were European Americans. Ethnic minority students were significantly higher in perceived discrimination and significantly lower in mental health. African Americans were most likely to perceive racial discrimination, followed by Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and European Americans. Asian Americans reported the poorest mental health. Results of mediational analyses by ethnic status (minorities and majority) and across ethnic group pairings (Americans and European Americans, Latino Americans and European Americans, Asian Americans and European Americans) confirmed in every instance that perceived discrimination accounts for a modest part of the relationship between ethnic minority-majority status and mental health. We address the implications for mental health practice on college campuses.

**********

It is well documented that the differential experiences of ethnic minorities lead to differential life outcomes. Minorities are disproportionately likely to have worse jobs and lower incomes, live in less desirable areas, and experience slights and indignities (e.g., racial micro-aggressions) than those in the European American majority (Marger, 2008; Sue, Bucceri, Lin, Nadal, & Torino, 2007; Sue, Capodilupo, & Holder, 2008). Ethnic minority students often attend substandard schools, receive poorer instruction, and are exposed to more violence (Massey, 2006). On predominantly White college campuses minority students report more negative experiences (e.g., faculty racism, racial conflict, racial harassment) than majority students (Ancis, Sedlacek, & Mohr, 2000; Rankin & Reason, 2000). Given these negative experiences, the cumulative effects of life stressors experienced by minorities might be expected to undermine their mental health (Smith, 1985). Perceived discrimination has been consistently linked to mental and physical health outcomes (Pascoe & Smart Richman, 2009; Williams, Yu, Jackson, & Anderson, 1997). However, while researchers seek the pathways linking perceived discrimination to health outcomes, most research on perceived discrimination either uses homogenous ethnic/racial samples or samples that compare two ethnic/racial groups. Few studies have compared multiple ethnic or racial groups, and virtually none has explicitly examined perceived discrimination as a mediating mechanism that links ethnic minority-majority status to mental health outcomes for multiple ethnic groups. Yet history shows that discrimination varies in type, frequency, intensity, and duration depending on the ethnic group examined (Takaki, 1993). The purpose of this study is to address this research gap by examining the role of perceived discrimination in differences in self-reported mental health in an ethnically diverse sample.

ETHNIC MINORITIES AND MENTAL HEALTH

Several theories offer explanations of why the mental health of ethnic and racial minorities may be poorer. Critical race theory is one of the more provocative theories offered (Brown, 2003). This theory suggests that racial stratification can cause mental health problems because stressful circumstances exacerbate emotional distress (Brown, 2003). Brown argues that standard definitions of mental health do not account for racial stratification and thus may not be nuanced enough to capture mental health in non-White samples. Examples of mental health problems caused by racial stratification are nihilistic tendencies, anti-self issues, and expression of suppressed anger. Eliminating racial stratification should therefore eliminate these mental health problems (Brown, 2003).

A related theory is social stress theory (Aneshensel, 1992), which encompasses several perspectives that demonstrate how different socio-environmental conditions evoke stress.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Ethnic Minority-Majority Status and Mental Health: The Mediating Role of Perceived Discrimination
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?