Ethnic–racial identity (ERI) has been associated with positive psychological and behavioral health outcomes among African American young adults. However, few studies have examined the potential interactive effects between components of ERI and other promotive factors, such as mindfulness, on health outcomes for African Americans. The current study will examine the interactive effect between exploration and commitment – which represent cognitive and affective aspects of ERI, respectively – and trait mindfulness on psychological and substance use outcomes among a sample of African American young adults.
Three-hundred eighty-eight African–American young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 (M = 20.6, 62% female) completed measures assessing ERI, trait mindfulness, psychological distress (i.e., composite of depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and stress), alcohol use, and cannabis use.
Hierarchical linear regression models, controlling for age and gender, indicated that both ERI exploration and ERI commitment predicted significant decreases in levels of psychological distress (β = -.26, p < .001; β = -.22, p < .001) and alcohol use (β = -.35, p < .001; β = -.29, p < .001). Interactions between ERI subscales and mindfulness were also significant, indicating more pronounced decreases in psychological distress at higher levels of mindfulness (b = .15, p = .001; b = .17, p < .001). Models with alcohol use as the outcome were also significant, showing interactions between ERI subscales and mindfulness (b = .14, p < .05; b = .15, p = .001). Neither ERI subscale nor mindfulness were found to be significant predictors of cannabis use.
Consistent with previous literature, both ERI and mindfulness were found to have protective effects on psychological distress among our sample of African American young adults. Both ERI and mindfulness were also found to have protective effects for alcohol use. Moreover, our findings show that ERI and mindfulness, though both effective in decreasing psychological distress and alcohol use, are more effective when combined. This suggests that including both mindfulness and ethnic identity in interventions may be an effective strategy for improving psychological well-being and behavioral health among African-American young adults. Further research is needed to explore other factors that may reduce risk for cannabis use among African American young adults.