Discrimination experienced by some teens can affect their grades and health, and is associated with depression, distress and reduced self-esteem, a new study has found.
University of California, Los Angeles researchers asked 601 high school seniors, who generally range in age from 17 to 19 years, to record any discriminatory events or comments they experienced over two weeks. They were also asked to note any physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach-aches and general pain.
Nearly 60% of the teens reported discrimination from other teens, 63% reported discrimination from adults, and 12% said they experienced discrimination every day.
Teens who experienced higher levels of peer or adult discrimination reported more aches, pain and other symptoms, and had lower overall grade-point averages, the investigators found. The study was released in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.
Discrimination can be especially hard on teens, the study authors noted.
Teen years hardest
"These are the years when social identity is arguably more salient among teenagers who are struggling with defining who they are. Adding on a 'layer' of discrimination is not an easy thing for them to deal with," said one of the study authors, Andrew J. Fuligni, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour.
"Discrimination significantly predicted lower [grade-point averages], higher levels of depression, higher levels of distress, lower self-esteem and more physical complaints," Fuligni added. "So the bottom line? Discrimination is harmful." (September 2010)
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