Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Context Matters: Differential Effects of Discrimination By Environmental Context on Depressive Symptoms Among College Students of Color (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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534P (WITHDRAWN) Context Matters: Differential Effects of Discrimination By Environmental Context on Depressive Symptoms Among College Students of Color

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Robert Eschmann, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Ryan Gryder, PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow, Boston University
Gerri Connaught, LMSW, PhD Student, New York University, Silver School of Social Work, New York, NY
Xiang Zhao, Boston University, MA
Sae-Mi Jeon, MA, Doctoral Candidate, Boston University, MA
Ernest Gonzales, PhD, Assistant Professor, New York University, Silver School of Social Work
Background: In the past 60 years, scholars have explored the changing expressions of racism. Much research has highlighted the ways race-neutral policies and practices in housing (Massey & Denton, 1993), education (Kozol, 2012), and incarceration (Alexander, 2012) have maintained racial inequality and negatively impacted communities of color. On an interpersonal level, research has exposed implicit (Dovidio, Glick, & Rudman, 2005) and covert racism (Bobo, Kluegel, & Smith, 1997; Bonilla-Silva, 2017) and the impacts of these experiences on the wellbeing of persons of color. Experiences with more subtle racism – which have been called microaggressions – have a host of negative effects on health, mental health, educational performance, and general well-being on people of color (Robinson-Perez et al. 2019; Sue 2010). Yet, several knowledge gaps remain. Less is known about how different types of microaggressions and discriminatory experiences may have differential impacts on mental health across racial/ethnic groups, and few studies have revealed longitudinal associations. Research is needed to fill these gaps in knowledge in order to provide social workers and educators with a complex understanding of how subtle racism impacts marginalized groups in the 21stcentury, especially in response to Social Work’s Grand Challenges, including the challenge to ensure healthy development for all youth. In this study, we seek to understand the differential effects of perceived racism in different higher educational contexts on symptoms of depression across different racial groups and over time using the microaggressions framework as a guide.

Method: We use longitudinal data of 1,144 Black, Latinx, and Asian students from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF) developed by researchers in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. Depressive symptomatology was assessed using items drawn from the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale. We utilize linear regression models to explore effects of microaggressions on depressive symptoms, and whether these effects vary by school context, race/ethnicity of the participant, and over time.

Results: We find key significant differences in the effects of microaggressions by type of microaggression, institutional characteristics, and racial/ethnic group over time. For instance, students of color experience microaggressions at different rates, with Blacks experiencing class-based microaggressions and perceived discomfort on campus at the highest rates (65% and 51%), followed by Asians (47% and 39%), and Latinx students experiencing the lowest levels (36% and 26%). We also find that the occurrence of discomfort on campus is associated with a significantly worse depression (CES-D) rating for Black, Asian, and Latinx students. In addition, different racial groups show different patterns of short-term and long-term effects of racial microaggressions on depression.

Conclusions: This study aligns with the grand challenges of social and economic justice, unleashing the power of prevention, and productive aging. Understanding the complexity of the effects of racial microaggressions in different contexts and with individuals from different racial/ethnic backgrounds is important for social workers and educators interested in preventing negative effects of racial microaggressions on youth health and wellbeing. These findings also highlight the need of social workers to develop interventions to help students of color.