Reducing Youth Mental Health Inequalities through Peer Practices: A Daily Diary Study of Ethnic/Racial Peer Interactions

How can peer interactions improve mental health disparities in ethnic and racial minority youth?

Ethnic and racial minority youth are at greater risk of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, than their White peers. Racial minority youth experience peer interactions focused on ethnicity and race, both positive (e.g., cultural socialization and support to cope with discrimination) and negative (e.g., teasing, discrimination, and victimization), which are not often studied. With this study, Wang seeks to better understand how these negative and positive peer practices focused on race and ethnicity are linked to the mental health outcomes of ethnic and racial minority youth. She hypothesizes that positive interactions are tied to better mental health and buffer the mental health consequences of negative interactions. Participants of this study, who include a diverse sample of 300 ninth graders in the Lansing, Michigan public school district, will be asked to complete a pre-survey on demographics, peer interactions, and well-being. They will then complete a diary for 14 consecutive days, consisting of a nightly survey on their peer interactions and well-being. The nightly surveys will allow Wang to obtain a more immediate assessment of the effects of specific interactions on youth mental health. A post-survey will focus on their peer interactions and well-being over the duration of the diary period. The surveys will involve relevant items from a range of scales, including the Racism and Life Experiences Scale, Cultural Socialization Scale across Contexts, and widely-used scales that assess mental health. Analyses will identify risk and protective peer interactions that can inform the development and refinement of interventions.

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