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Keywords:

  • perceived discrimination;
  • ethnic identity;
  • personal identity;
  • depression;
  • ethnic minorities;
  • generation

Objective

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.

Method

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.