Year Published: 2010

Authors: Allison J. Tracy, Ph.D., Sumru Erkut, Ph.D.

Using the intersectionality framework (simultaneously inhabiting multiple social identities), this study compares the social adjustment of male and female biracial/ethnic adolescents (e.g., Black/White youth) with that of corresponding monoracial/ethnic youth (e.g., Black youth and White youth). The data come from a sample of approximately 80,000 adolescents in grades 7-12 who participated in the in-school administration of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Respondents could report more than one race and responded to a question about Hispanic ethnicity. Regression analysis was used to predict group differences in depressive symptoms, substance use, and health complaints of specific biracial/ethnic identification groups as compared with adolescents identifying as monoracial in one or the other racial/ethnic category, while controlling for complex sampling design, mother' s education, single parent family, and student' s grade. Consistent with the intersectionality framework, gender and particular racial/ethnic categories involved in a youth' s biracial self-identification moderated poor social adjustment but the effect sizes were relatively small. Many but not all biracial/ethnic adolescents reported significantly higher levels of social adjustment problems than did corresponding single-race adolescents. Male biracial adolescents were more likely to have elevated social adjustment problems than biracial females. Biracial youth withAsian American heritage, especially male biracial part-Asian American adolescents and male biracial adolescents with Black heritage had more social adjustment problems than did other biracial adolescents. Female biracial adolescents with Black heritage reported the least number of problems of all race/ethnicity and gender groups. Reducing a biracial adolescent' s race to a monoracial minority designation may lead to overlooking important elevated risks facing some biracial youth.

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