Let’s Talk: A Study of the Impact of Gendered Racial Socialization on African American Adolescent Girls’ Mental Health
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Internalized racial oppression in African American girls is understudied within research. As people of color are victimized by racism, they may internalize it, developing ideas, beliefs, actions and behaviors that support or collude with racism (Bivens, 1995). This internalized racism has its own systemic reality and its own negative consequences in the lives and communities of people of color. Understanding the way negative racial messages influence the mental health of African American adolescent girls allows for the development of intervention and prevention methods to reduce symptomology of depression, anxiety, and stress. In order for African American girls and young women to develop a healthy sense of self, families must prepare them to cope with the realities of experiencing intersecting oppression (i.e., racism and sexism; Edmondson Bell & Nkomo 1998; Lewis et al. 2013). This may occur through an African American-specific process of gendered racial socialization (Brown et al. 2016). While some research has examined the relationship between racial discrimination and race related stress outcomes (Buford, 2009) or internalized racial oppression on ethnic identity and self-efficacy (La Mar, 2018), there are no current studies that have looked at the impact of internalized gendered racial oppression (IGRO) on negative affect of African American adolescent girls or possible ways to moderate this impact. This study identifies a relationship between IGRO and depression, anxiety and stress symptoms while isolating messages of gendered racial pride and empowerment (GRPE) that reduce these symptoms in Black adolescent girls. To test the hypothesis, GRPE socialization moderates the relationship between IGRO socialization and indicators of psychological wellbeing (i.e., depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms) this study analyzed the responses of 287 Black adolescent girls (MAge = 15.40) who completed questionnaires assessing the study variables of interest as part of a larger parent-teen dyadic study. A series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted. Models of the main effects of IGRO and GRPE on depression (R 2 = .04), anxiety (R 2 = .04), and stress (R 2 = .04) were significant (all ps < .001), suggesting these variables accounted for significant variance in the mental health symptoms. For depression, increases in both IGRO (b=.83, p < .001) and GRPE (b=.20, p < .05) were associated with increases in reported depression symptoms. However, examination of the interaction (b=-.16, p < .01) via simple slopes suggested that the Black girls reported higher levels of GRPE, the negative impact of IGRO on depressive symptoms was attenuated. Indeed, at the highest levels of GRPE, the effect of IGRO on depressive symptoms was reduced to non-significance. Similar patterns emerged for teen anxiety and stress, with increased IGRO associated with increasing symptom endorsement and increasing GRPE attenuating this effect. These findings suggest that it is particularly important for African-American youth to receive messages conveying pride and empowerment on being a black girl to aid in reducing the mental health symptoms associated with IGRO. By identifying key messages of gendered racial socialization, this study has the potential to educate parents and teachers on the impact of their messages on children’s mental health. Implications and future directions regarding gendered racial socialization of Black teenaged girls are discussed.
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VCU Graduate Research Posters