Exploring the Relationships Between Perceived Discrimination, Perceived Social Support, Ethnic Identity, Critical Consciousness, and Psychological Distress and School Engagement in Adolescents
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The purpose of this study was to explore mechanisms through which high school students experience and cope with perceived discrimination and how discrimination and coping mechanisms relate to psychological distress and school engagement. Framed within transactional stress and coping and sociopolitical development theories, I tested a multiple mediation model with an ethnically diverse sample of public high school students (N = 979) and a subsample of Latina/o students (n = 433) to examine the mediating effects of three coping mechanisms (perceived social support, ethnic identity, and critical consciousness) on the relationship between perceived discrimination and the outcomes of psychological distress and school engagement. Additionally, psychological distress was examined as a mediator in the link between perceived discrimination and school engagement. Measurement and structural models were tested and demonstrated an adequate fit to the data. The hypothesized structural model accounts for 54% of the variance in school engagement and 31.2% of the variance in psychological distress in the full sample. The same model accounts for 63.4% of the variance in school engagement and 26.7% of the variance in psychological distress in the Latina/o subsample. A bootstrap analysis revealed that critical consciousness and perceived social support mediate the relationship between perceived discrimination and psychological distress in the full sample. Further, critical consciousness, ethnic identity, perceived social support, and psychological distress mediated the relationship between perceived discrimination and school engagement. A bootstrap analysis in the Latina/o subsample indicated that critical consciousness and psychological distress mediated the relationship between perceived discrimination and school engagement. While there are associated risks, the results highlight critical consciousness development as a protective racism-related coping mechanism for ethnically diverse adolescents and Latina/o youth in particular. Strengths, limitations, and implications of the study are discussed.