Racial Identity Matters: The Relationship between Racial Discrimination and Psychological Functioning in African American Adolescents


Requests for reprints should be sent to Robert M. Sellers, Department of Psychology, 3253 East Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail: rsellers@umich.edu


This study examines the interrelationships among racial discrimination, racial identity, and psychological functioning in a sample of 314 African American adolescents. Racial discrimination was associated with lower levels of psychological functioning as measured by perceived stress, depressive symptomatology, and psychological well-being. Although individuals who believe that other groups hold more negative attitudes toward African Americans (low public regard) were at greater risk for experiencing racial discrimination, low public regard beliefs also buffered the impact of racial discrimination on psychological functioning. More positive attitudes about African Americans were also associated with more positive psychological functioning. The results further illustrate the utility of a multidimensional framework for understanding the role of racial identity in the relationship between racial discrimination and psychological outcomes among African American adolescents.