Can your ethnicity play into your mental health? According to a new study, it can. This study, carried out by researchers at Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago and Walden University, and featured in a Science Daily release, found that most adolescents who belong to an ethnic minority group wrestle with self-esteem and identity issues unique to their social group.
Researchers examined more than 250 African American youths from urban, low-income families in an effort to identify unique effects of racial identity and self esteem on their mental health. These researchers found that when ethnic pride feelings rose between 7th and 8th grades, mental health also improved, regardless of self-esteem.
At the same time, those with low self-esteem also experienced a sense of pride that acted as a buffer to some mental health problems. Racial identity appeared to be a stronger buffer against symptoms of depression for boys than for girls.
“These findings imply that ethnic pride is important to African American adolescents’ mental health for other reasons than it simply makes them feel better about themselves as individuals,” according to Jelani Mandara, associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, who was the study’s lead author.
“The findings also imply that ethnic pride may be as important as self-esteem to the mental health of African American adolescents. Parents, schools, and therapists should expose young people to material and environments that help foster a sense of ethnic pride.”
These findings are interesting in highlighting the role that ethnic pride plays in the mental well-being of a young person. Building on that pride can certainly help to develop protection against depression and provide a better outlook on life.