Racism, ethnic density and psychological well-being through adolescence: evidence from the Determinants of Adolescent Social well-being and Health longitudinal study
Objective. To investigate the effect of racism, own-group ethnic density, diversity and deprivation on adolescent trajectories in psychological well-being. Design. Multilevel models were used in longitudinal analysis of psychological well-being (total difficulties score (TDS) from Goodman's Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, higher scores correspond to greater difficulties) for 4782 adolescents aged 11–16 years in 51 London (UK) schools. Individual level variables included ethnicity, racism, gender, age, migrant generation, socio-economic circumstances, family type and indicators of family interactions (shared activities, perceived parenting). Contextual variables were per cent eligible for free school-meals, neighbourhood deprivation, per cent own-group ethnic density, and ethnic diversity. Results. Ethnic minorities were more likely to report racism than Whites. Ethnic minority boys (except Indian boys) and Indian girls reported better psychological well-being throughout adolescence compared to their White peers. Notably, lowest mean TDS scores were observed for Nigerian/Ghanaian boys, among whom the reporting of racism increased with age. Adjusted for individual characteristics, psychological well-being improved with age across all ethnic groups. Racism was associated with poorer psychological well-being trajectories for all ethnic groups (p<0.001), reducing with age. For example, mean difference in TDS (95% confidence interval) between boys who experienced racism and those who did not at age 12 years=1.88 (+1.75 to+2.01); at 16 years=+1.19 (+1.07 to+1.31). Less racism was generally reported in schools and neighbourhoods with high than low own-group density. Own ethnic density and diversity were not consistently associated with TDS for any ethnic group. Living in more deprived neighbourhoods was associated with poorer psychological well-being for Whites and Black Caribbeans (p<0.05). Conclusion. Racism, but not ethnic density and deprivation in schools or neighbourhoods, was an important influence on psychological well-being. However, exposure to racism did not explain the advantage in psychological well-being of ethnic minority groups over Whites.