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.