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01-02-2014 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2014

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2014

Middle Class African American Mothers’ Depressive Symptoms Mediate Perceived Discrimination and Reported Child Externalizing Behaviors

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2014
Sharde’ McNeil, DeAnna Harris-McKoy, Cicely Brantley, Frank Fincham, Steven R. H. Beach


Racial discrimination is a chronic stressor in the lives of African Americans. Chronic stress can lead to individual mental and physical health problems, which subsequently can have deleterious effects on family life. The current study explored the effects of perceived discrimination on youth outcomes and examined the potential mediating role of maternal depression. Using data from 189 African American mothers with children aged 7–14 years, maternal perceived discrimination accounted for variance in reported child externalizing behaviors over and beyond that attributable to other stressful life events and socio-demographic variables. Also, maternal depressive symptoms mediated the effect of maternal perceived discrimination on child externalizing behaviors. These results are consistent with the view that mothers’ experience of greater discrimination leads to higher maternal depression which, in turn, leads to greater externalizing behavior among their children. The findings support the need for further exploration of macrosystemic effects that can influence African American youth externalizing behaviors. The results are discussed in terms of the need to include consideration of discrimination in preventive interventions aimed at increasing support systems available to African American mothers.

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