Relationships Among Identity, Perceived Discrimination, and Depressive Symptoms in Eight Ethnic-Generational Groups


  • The research reported in this article was conducted as part of the Multi-Site University Study of Identity and Culture (MUSIC). All MUSIC collaborators are gratefully acknowledged.

Please address correspondence to: Roxanne A. Donovan, Department of Psychology, Kennesaw State University, 1000 Chastain Road, MD #2202, Kennesaw, GA 30144. E-mail:



Examine whether personal identity confusion and ethnic identity, respectively, moderate and/or mediate the relationship between perceived discrimination (PD) and depressive symptoms (DS) in eight ethnic-generational groups.


The sample consisted of 9665 students (73% women; mean age 20.31) from 30 colleges and universities from around the United States. Cross-sectional data were gathered through a confidential online survey.


Across groups, PD and ethnic identity levels varied, while identity confusion levels were mostly similar. Neither identity confusion nor ethnic identity moderated the PD-DS relationship for any groups. However, identity confusion was a partial mediator for immigrant and nonimmigrant Hispanic/Latino(a) and White/European American participants. Identity confusion also suppressed the PD-DS relationship for Black/African American participants.


Results highlight the need for additional research on identity confusion's role in the PD-distress link and the importance of addressing ethnicity and generation status when examining the effects of PD on college students’ mental health.