To these ends, this work explored two research queries: 1) if the identified constructs for racial identity and well-being would have factor loadings consistent with literature and theory; and 2) if the structural model would demonstrate racial identity acting to positively influence well-being.
Methods: This work utilizes data from the National Survey of American Life – Adolescent Supplement (NSAL-A), which explored DSM-IV disorders and their comorbidities among a sample of U. S. youth. There were n = 1,170 respondents included in the analysis, all of whom self-identified as being African American and/or Caribbean. Sample ages ranged from thirteen to seventeen.
Relevant variables were extracted from the larger dataset for analysis, including those related to constructs for perceived stress, depression, self-esteem, and racial identity. To address the hypotheses related to the measurement of the constructs within the sample, as well as the structural component of their interactions, structural equation modeling was chosen as the method of analysis.
Results: Despite some multi-factor hypotheses, each of the constructs operated best in one-factor configurations, with all model fits acceptable (all RMSEA < 0.05, CFI > 0.95, and TLI > 0.9). With the modifications to the measurement model in place, the model fit for the final structural model was acceptable (χ2=1815.8, df=944, RMSEA=0.03, CFI=0.92, TLI=0.91). The hypothesized relationships between racial identity and well-being were partially supported, as racial identity was found to be positively related to self-esteem (β=.18, p<.01), but relationships with depression (β=-.07, p=.1) and perceived stress (β=-.35, p=.051) were not statistically significant. Additionally, higher reported depression was related to poorer self-esteem (β=-.63, p<.001), and higher self-esteem was related to a reduction in perceived stress (β=-.35, p<.001).
Conclusions and Implications: The findings of this work support much of the literature on racial identity and well-being, although it is through a different path than others may have identified. This study finds that racial identity operates on other constructs—like depression and perceived stress—through pathways that are dependent upon self-esteem. Future research should focus on exploring this pathway further, with self-esteem functioning as a moderator to other well-being constructs. Intervention work may also leverage this finding to focus on bolstering self-esteem through racial identity affirming work.