Abstract: The Influence of School Demographics on Multiracial and Latino/a Adolescence Mental Health Adjustment (Society for Prevention Research 24th Annual Meeting)

264 The Influence of School Demographics on Multiracial and Latino/a Adolescence Mental Health Adjustment

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Carolyn A Peterson, M.A., M.S., Doctoral Student, University of Oregon, Portland, OR
Elizabeth Ann Stormshak, PhD, Professor, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Introduction: Individuals who identify as multiracial are one of the fastest growing racial categories in the United States. Research has suggested that multiracial individuals are more likely than monoracials to exhibit negative mental health adjustment. Racial compositions of a school are an important factor of the school climate as they have been found to influence students’ achievement and adjustments both positively and negatively. Mental health adjustment may be moderated by a student’s “match” between a student’s racial identity and the demographic make-up of their grade. The current study examines correlates of depression for individuals who identify as multiracial compared to individuals who identify as monoracial.

Methods: Data from the Positive Family Support Student Survey obtained from 6th graders attending 41 different schools during 2010-2012 were used. Three self-identified racial groups were used for analysis; 63% monoracial White (N = 4518), 21% monoracial Latino/a (N = 1505), and 15% multiracial (N = 1143) with White as the reference group. Hierarchal linear modeling (HLM) was used to examine student and school level influences on mental health adjustment, specifically the influence of school environment (racial demographics within a school and perceived school climate) on depression.

Results: Students who identify as multiracial were more likely to report higher levels of depression compared to White students; b = 1.47, SE = 0.40, p < .001. The percentage of multiracial students within a student’s grade was found to have a significant effect on multiracial students reports of depression; b = -0.20, SE = 0.10, p < .05. Having a better “match” to peers at schools helped reduce reports of depression. Students who identified as Latino/a were more likely to report lower levels of depression compared to Whites; b = -1.08, SE = 0.39, p < .01.  A similar effect regarding Latino/a student’s “match” to their peers was also observed, however it was not significant; b = -0.01, SE = 0.02, p > .05.

Conclusions: An important and unique finding of this study was that multiracial students benefited psychologically in schools with peers who were also multiracial; better racial “match” was protective against depression. It was observed that even the slightest amount of similar race peers for multiracials had a significant decreasing effect on depression. Implications of this finding suggest that multiracial students may benefit from opportunities to interact with other multiracial adolescents.