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Associations between Online Racial Discrimination and Psychological Well-Being: Examining the Influence of Racial Identity

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Researchers have noted that social media use (SM) and the experience of online racial discrimination (ORD) among African American youth continues to rise (e.g., Tynes et al., 2012). Additionally, ORD has been associated with higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as decreases in overall psychological well-being (e.g., Tynes et al., 2008; Keum & Miller, 2017). Despite these associations, researchers have noted that racial identity – the personal significance and meaning of race (Sellers et. al., 1998), may serve as a protective factor against the impact of racism-related stress on psychological well-being for African American youth. For instance, there is a link between racial identity and positive mental health outcomes for this group (i.e. Smith & Silva, 2011), and evidence suggests that racial identity is associated with fewer negative mental health symptoms within this population (i.e. Tynes et. al, 2012, Williams et. al., 2012). Although racial identity may protect against racism-related stressors, current research is limited in that few studies have explored if racial identity beliefs protect against the influence of ORD on the psychological well-being of African American youth. In light of this, the current study explored the influence of racial identity dimensions on the association between experiences of ORD and psychological well-being among 96 African American late adolescents (68% female) attending a predominately White institution in the southeastern United States. Participants completed measures assessing racial identity (MIBI-S; Martin et al., 2010), ORD (Tynes et al., 2010), and symptoms of psychological distress (SCL-90R; Derogatis, 1996). Based on prior research, it was expected that higher levels of racial identity dimensions such as racial centrality (i.e., the importance of race in one’s self-concept) and private regard (positive/negative feelings about being African American) would protect against experiences of ORD and be associated with decreased reports of psychological distress. Regression analyses revealed that the association between ORD and psychological distress was moderated by racial identity, specifically racial centrality, private regard, and public regard (i.e., beliefs that others in society hold positive/negative views towards African Americans). Specifically, there was a significant positive association between ORD and psychological distress, but only for those with low levels of racial centrality (B = .07, p < .05). In contrast, there were significant negative associations between ORD and psychological distress for those who reported high levels of racial centrality (B = -.07, p < .05) and private regard (B = -.17, p < .05), and low levels of public regard (B = -.06, p < .05). These results suggest that ORD negatively impacts the psychological well-being of African American youth, and that certain racial identity beliefs (e.g., high racial centrality and private regard) may protect against the stress caused by ORD and lead to better mental health outcomes.


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