The negative health consequences of personal experiences of racial discrimination (personal-level discrimination) has been well-documented across developmental stages, including adolescence, in Black individuals. There is also some evidence suggesting perceiving other Black individuals experiencing racial discrimination (group-level discrimination) can protect one’s health in Black adults.
This study examined the role of personal- and group-level discrimination in Black adolescent health. The study was a secondary analysis of survey data collected from 186 Black adolescents that included reports of discrimination, physical function, anxiety, and depression.
Black adolescents who reported greater, as opposed to lower, personal-level discrimination were more likely to experience poorer physical and mental health outcomes. While group-level discrimination was also associated with physical health outcomes, it was not directly associated with mental health outcomes. Importantly, across all three health outcomes, awareness of group-level discrimination mitigated the negative health consequences of personal-level discrimination. Among adolescents who reported low levels of group-level discrimination, personal-level discrimination was associated negatively with physical function and positively with anxiety and depressive symptoms. Among adolescents who reported high levels of group-level discrimination, there was no association between personal-level discrimination and any of the health outcomes.
Consistent with prior research with Black adults, awareness of high group-level discrimination may protect Black adolescents from the negative health consequences of personal-level discrimination. The pattern of the results is also consistent with the literature of the personal-group discrimination discrepancy (PGDD) and psychological wellbeing. Future research should investigate the psychological mechanisms implicated in PGDD (e.g., external attribution of discrimination and intragroup comparison) as potential coping strategies for Black adolescents against the negative health consequences of personal-level discrimination.