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Sticks and stones may break my bones: Protective factors for the effects of perceived discrimination on social competence in adolescence


Shannon E. Myrick, Department of Psychology, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751, e-mail:


Adolescents are developing in an increasingly diverse society requiring sophisticated and flexible social skills for effective negotiation of social environments. Developing these social skills effectively has important implications for adolescents, especially those of diverse ethnic backgrounds. This study investigated social competence in minority and nonminority adolescents from the perspective of an integrated and context-specific model of development (C. Garcia Coll et al., 1996). The relationships among perceived discrimination, attachment, ethnic identity, and social competence were explored in 320 middle school students using questionnaire methodology. Perceived discrimination was found to be negatively related to social competence in all participants and attachment was found to be a buffering factor, but only in minority adolescents. The findings support a unique developmental context of minority and nonminority youth and highlight the need for continuing research on constructs such as attachment and ethnic identity that may be influential in outcomes such as social competence.