Longitudinal Associations Between Discrimination, Depressive Symptoms, and Prosocial Behaviors in U.S. Latino/a Recent Immigrant Adolescents

Little is known about how discrimination affects youths’ mental health and their willingness to help others. University of Missouri (MU) researchers are helping to close that gap; a new study finds that young Latino immigrants who feel discriminated against had more depressive symptoms and were less likely to perform altruistic behaviors after experiencing discrimination.

“It’s important to consider that experiencing discrimination starts to wear on cognitive and emotional resources that youth may have, which can lead to symptoms of depression, sadness, and withdrawal,” said Alexandra Davis, a doctoral candidate in the MU Department of Human Development and Family Science.

For the study, 302 Latino immigrants between the ages of 13 and 17 completed three questionnaires over the course of a year about discrimination experiences, mental health and prosocial behaviors, such as volunteering or helping others. The youth had lived in the United States for five years or less. The study controlled for the teens’ previous levels of depression and involvement in helping behaviors in order to observe changes over time, at six months and one year after experiencing discrimination.

The perception of discrimination, especially among marginalized groups, is an important indicator for how the group will interact with others. In the study, researchers found that perceived discrimination can undermine positive social behaviors toward others.

Population of focus: Latino adolescents

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Date: 2015

Journal: Journal of Youth and Adolescence