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Objectives: The current study investigates the utility of political activism as a protective factor against experiences of racial/ethnic (R/E) discrimination that negatively affect stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms among Black and Latinx college freshmen at predominately White institutions. Method: Data come from the Minority College Cohort Study, a longitudinal investigation of Black and Latinx college students (N = 504; 44% Black). We conducted multiple regression analyses for each mental health indicator and tested for interaction effects. Results: For Black and Latinx students, the relationship between R/E microaggressions and end of freshman year stress varied by political activism. For Black students, the relationship between R/E microaggressions and end of the year anxiety varied by political activism. There was a significant interaction effect for depressive symptoms among Latinx students. Conclusions: Political activism serves as a protective factor to mitigate the negative effect of R/E discrimination on stress and depressive symptoms for Latinx students. For Black students, higher levels of political activism may exacerbate experiences of R/E microaggressions and relate to more stress and anxiety compared with Black students who are less politically involved. Findings point to the need for a deeper understanding of phenomenological variation in experiences of microaggressions among R/E minorities and how students leverage political activism as an adaptive coping strategy to mitigate race-related stress during college. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority
Psychology
Political Activism and Mental Health Among Black and
Latinx College Students
Elan C. Hope, Gabriel Velez, Carly Offidani-Bertrand, Micere Keels, and Myles I. Durkee
Online First Publication, June 26, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000144
CITATION
Hope, E. C., Velez, G., Offidani-Bertrand, C., Keels, M., & Durkee, M. I. (2017, June 26). Political
Activism and Mental Health Among Black and Latinx College Students. Cultural Diversity and
Ethnic Minority Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000144
Political Activism and Mental Health Among Black and Latinx
College Students
Elan C. Hope
North Carolina State University
Gabriel Velez, Carly Offidani-Bertrand,
and Micere Keels
University of Chicago
Myles I. Durkee
University of Michigan
Objectives: The current study investigates the utility of political activism as a protective factor against
experiences of racial/ethnic (R/E) discrimination that negatively affect stress, anxiety, and depressive
symptoms among Black and Latinx college freshmen at predominately White institutions. Method: Data
come from the Minority College Cohort Study, a longitudinal investigation of Black and Latinx college
students (N504; 44% Black). We conducted multiple regression analyses for each mental health
indicator and tested for interaction effects. Results: For Black and Latinx students, the relationship
between R/E microaggressions and end of freshman year stress varied by political activism. For Black
students, the relationship between R/E microaggressions and end of the year anxiety varied by political
activism. There was a significant interaction effect for depressive symptoms among Latinx students.
Conclusions: Political activism serves as a protective factor to mitigate the negative effect of R/E
discrimination on stress and depressive symptoms for Latinx students. For Black students, higher levels
of political activism may exacerbate experiences of R/E microaggressions and relate to more stress and
anxiety compared with Black students who are less politically involved. Findings point to the need for
a deeper understanding of phenomenological variation in experiences of microaggressions among R/E
minorities and how students leverage political activism as an adaptive coping strategy to mitigate
race-related stress during college.
Keywords: Black, college students, Latinx, mental health, political activism
One increasingly important pathway to adulthood is through
higher education, as the “college for all” rhetoric intensifies and
growing numbers of racial/ethnic (R/E) minority and low-
income students enroll in college (Krogstad & Fry, 2014). In
pursuit of personal growth and socioeconomic mobility through
higher education, emerging adults experience social and con-
textual shifts that put their mental health at risk (Arnett, 2000;
Institute of Medicine, 1994). In fact, approximately half of
college students who visited campus clinics cited anxiety, de-
pression, and/or stress as a health concern (Center for Colle-
giate Mental Health [CCMH], 2015). Fourteen percent of un-
dergraduates reported seeking treatment for anxiety within the
past year whereas 12% reported doing so for depression (Amer-
ican College Health Association, 2014). Black and Latinx col-
lege students are at an elevated risk for poor mental health and
reported significantly more depressive symptoms and distress
than White students (CCMH, 2015).
Black and Latinx students at predominately White institu-
tions (PWIs) experience greater feelings of personal dissatis-
faction, depressive symptoms, and social isolation than their
White counterparts (Ancis, Sedlacek, & Mohr, 2000; Hinderlie
& Kenny, 2002). For Black and Latinx college students, these
stressors increase the risk of depression and anxiety (Hwang &
Goto, 2009; Neville, Heppner, Ji, & Thye, 2004; Prelow,
Mosher, & Bowman, 2006; Smith, Allen, & Danley, 2007).
Risks are further compounded for Black and Latinx college
students who are less likely than White students to receive
adequate mental health treatment due to cultural stigma and past
negative experiences with mental health services (Gonzalez,
Alegría, & Prihoda, 2005; Miranda, Soffer, Polanco-Roman,
Wheeler, & Moore, 2015; Nadeem et al., 2007). Consequently,
researchers have attempted to identify nonclinical aspects of
campus life, such as political activism, that can act as adaptive
coping strategies to promote positive mental health among R/E
minority students (Hope & Spencer, 2017). In the current study,
we investigate stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms among
Black and Latinx college freshmen at PWIs and the utility of
political activism as a protective factor against R/E discrimina-
tion, which negatively affects mental health.
Elan C. Hope, Department of Psychology, North Carolina State Univer-
sity; Gabriel Velez, Carly Offidani-Bertrand, and Micere Keels, Depart-
ment of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago; Myles
I. Durkee, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.
The research reported in this article was supported by the William T.
Grant Foundation (Grant 180804).
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elan C.
Hope, Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Cam-
pus Box 7650, Raleigh, NC 27695-7650. E-mail: ehope@ncsu.edu
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology © 2017 American Psychological Association
2017, Vol. 1, No. 2, 000 1099-9809/17/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000144
1
Experiences of Black and Latinx Students
Attending PWIs
Black and Latinx students are at increased risk for negative
mental health outcomes, including stress, anxiety, and depression,
when faced with racially hostile campus environments. Black and
Latinx students at PWIs experience greater stigma, less institu-
tional support, and less social support than White students, which
makes it difficult to positively cope with competing stressors
(Keels, 2013). Studies show that perceptions of a racially hostile
campus climate are associated with a lower sense of belonging for
Latinx college students (Hurtado & Carter, 1997), and perceived
racial discrimination is associated with a greater prevalence of trait
anxiety among Asian and Latinx college students (Hwang & Goto,
2009). R/E microaggressions— brief and common verbal or be-
havioral racial insults toward R/E minorities—are typical experi-
ences for Black and Latinx students at PWIs (Harwood, Huntt,
Mendenhall, & Lewis, 2012; Minikel-Lacocque, 2013; Sue et al.,
2007). Students who express concern about racial stigma in their
institutions are more likely to experience negative mental health
and have lower grade point averages (GPAs) than students who are
less concerned about racial stigma (Brown & Lee, 2005). Further-
more, experiencing racial microaggressions has been related to
suicidal ideation via depressive symptoms (O’Keefe, Wingate,
Cole, Hollingsworth, & Tucker, 2014). Research shows a clear
connection among mental health, college performance, and college
attrition (Eisenberg, Golberstein, & Hunt, 2009; Lindsey, Fabiano,
& Stark, 2009), and scholars suggest that the major causes of
attrition in first-year college students are emotional rather than
academic factors (Pritchard & Wilson, 2003; Szulecka, Springett,
& De Pauw, 1987). Given that only 40% of Black and 52% of
Latinx students obtain a bachelor’s degree within 6 years of initial
enrollment (Snyder & Dillow, 2015), we are in critical need of
research on nonacademic factors, such as mental health and pos-
itive coping strategies, to support college persistence.
Political Activism and the College Transition
Political activism is a “critical” form of civic engagement that
assumes action toward meaningful and systematic change to ad-
dress social justice issues, and it may be particularly meaningful to
Black and Latinx college students (Hope, Keels, & Durkee, 2016;
Watts, Diemer, & Voight, 2011). Political activism includes main-
stream political behavior (voting, contacting public officials), legal
activism (boycotting, protesting), and illegal activism (civil dis-
obedience, political violence; Ekman & Amnå, 2012). Although
some research suggests that Black and Latinx youth participate
less in traditional politics (Levinson, 2007), recent research finds
that Black and Latinx youth comprise an increasingly larger share
of the voting electorate and made up 35% of voters ages 18 –29
years in the 2012 presidential election (CIRCLE, 2012; Rogowski
& Cohen, 2012). Young Black Americans voted at higher rates
than any other racial or ethnic group in 2008 and 2012 (CIRCLE,
2014). This increase in young Black voters runs counter to histor-
ical trends, and although it may be in part attributed to the
presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, overall, young people
have continued to vote in high numbers, with a record number of
young voters casting ballots during the 2016 presidential primary
season (CIRCLE, 2016). With increasing political participation
among Black and Latinx emerging adults, it is important to un-
derstand how political activism is related to college students’
mental health.
Civic engagement, including political activism, among emerg-
ing adults is correlated with healthy development, including stron-
ger bonds with peers, family, school, and local community (Han-
sen, Larson, & Dworkin, 2003; Jiménez, Musitu, Ramos, &
Murgui 2009; Pancer, 2014); increased social, academic, cogni-
tive, and vocational skills (Astin & Sax, 1998; Astin, Sax, &
Avalos, 1999; Eccles, Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003); and increased
social capital (Duke, Skay, Pettingell, & Borowsky, 2009). Fur-
thermore, among college students, participation in civic and polit-
ical cocurricular activities has been shown to positively affect
GPA, cognitive skills, and leadership skill development (Astin,
Vogelgesang, Ikeda, & Yee, 2000). The effects may differ by
race/ethnicity; participation in student government was negatively
associated with GPA for Black students, but positively associated
for Latinx students (Strayhorn, 2010). Our study will add to this
body of research by being one of few to examine the relationship
between political activism and mental health for Black and Latinx
college students.
Political Activism as a Coping Strategy
Political activism may be a meaningful coping strategy for R/E
minorities during the college transition by helping to buffer feel-
ings of stress and isolation related to underrepresentation on cam-
pus, racial hassles, and R/E microaggressions (Hope, Hoggard, &
Thomas, 2015; Hope & Spencer, 2017; Spencer, 2006). Through
repeated engagement, political activism can become an actively
acquired response to ecological stressors and resulting vulnerabil-
ities. In this way, R/E marginalized youth leverage political activ-
ism to navigate sociopolitical conditions that create risk and alter
these negative conditions to mitigate future risk (Hope & Spencer,
2017). There is evidence to support this claim because political
activism can serve as an adaptive coping strategy in the face of
environmental stress, leading to positive developmental outcomes
for R/E minority youth (Berg, Coman, & Schensul, 2009). Youth
who engage in political action to improve community health and
well-being also experience positive individual well-being out-
comes. For instance, Campbell and McPhail (2002) found that
political interest and civic engagement provide youth with tools to
improve their own health behaviors, such as HIV prevention.
Furthermore, longitudinal analysis demonstrates that civic engage-
ment is associated with higher life satisfaction, civic participation,
and educational attainment for Black and Latinx youth (Chan, Ou,
& Reynolds, 2014). Thus, engagement with sociopolitical systems
promotes psychological well-being among Black and Latinx
youth, in part through bolstering feelings of sociopolitical control
and efficacy (Zimmerman, Ramirez-Valles, & Maton, 1999). It is
also possible that political activism may further exacerbate poor
mental health, particularly in a hostile sociopolitical environment.
Although many studies have examined experiences of R/E dis-
crimination among Black and Latinx students at PWIs (e.g., Har-
wood et al., 2012; Minikel-Lacocque, 2013; Nadal, Wong, Griffin,
Davidoff, & Sriken, 2014), few studies consider political activism
as a mechanism to reduce psychological consequences of R/E
discrimination on college campuses. Our study addresses this
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2HOPE, VELEZ, OFFIDANI-BERTRAND, KEELS, AND DURKEE
through conceptualizing political activism as an adaptive coping
strategy.
The Current Study
Although political activism positively affects the social and
academic lives of R/E minority youth (Flanagan & Levine, 2010;
Pacheco & Plutzer, 2008), less is known about the relationship
between political activism and mental health. The literature on race
and mental health indicates that research should consider life
contexts and experiences that are linked to R/E group membership
and are likely to adversely affect mental health (Cauce et al., 2002;
Gibbs & Huang, 1989). Given research that suggests that racial
discrimination affects Black and Latinx emerging adults’ physical
and psychological health (Hope et al., 2015; Molina, Alegría, &
Mahalingam, 2013), research must examine how adolescent be-
haviors and characteristics related to health outcomes may persist
into emerging adulthood (Keels, 2013; Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, Kinzie,
& Gonyea, 2008). Thus, we account for the influence of demo-
graphic variables traditionally investigated, including gender,
first-generation college status, socioeconomic status (financial
distress), political efficacy, and prior mental health. In this
study, we examine
1. How is political activism during freshman year associ-
ated with Black and Latinx students’ mental health at the
end of freshman year?
2. How are R/E microaggressions experienced over fresh-
man year associated with mental health at the end of
freshman year?
3. Does political activism moderate the relationship be-
tween experiences of R/E microaggressions and mental
health?
Method
Participants
Data come from the Minority College Cohort Study, a longitu-
dinal investigation of Black and Latinx freshmen who began
college in Fall 2013. Given our interest in R/E microaggressions,
participants were excluded from the current analyses if they iden-
tified primarily as White (N504; 43.8% Black). Nine percent of
Black (n20) and Latinx students (n25) reported being
multiracial, with Black/African American or Latinx/Hispanic be-
ing a primary R/E identity. Approximately 75% of Black and 56%
of Latinx participants were female; this is reflective of the gender
imbalance in college enrollment (Keels, 2013; Lopez & Gonzalez-
Barrera, 2014). The mean age of the sample at recruitment was
18.2 years (SD 0.47). Forty-nine percent of Black students and
71% of Latinx students were first-generation college students.
These students were recruited from five PWIs in the Midwest: two
urban private institutions (22%), one urban public institution
(36%), one rural public institution (13%), and one suburban public
institution (29%). At all institutions sampled, except the urban
public institution, White students made up more than 50% of the
undergraduate student population (National Center for Education
Statistics, 2016). At the two urban private institutions, Black
students made up 8% and 4% and Latinx students made up 17%
and 13% of the student body. The rural public institution under-
graduate population was 16% Black and 14% Latinx, and the
suburban public institution was 5% Black and 9% Latinx. The
urban public institution was the most diverse, with an undergrad-
uate student population that was 8% Black, 26% Latinx, and 36%
White.
Procedures
Administrators at each university distributed an email contain-
ing a description of the research study and a link to the online
survey during September of the 2013–2014 academic year. After
following the link to the online survey, participants provided
informed consent and completed a screening questionnaire. First-
time college freshmen who identified as African American/Black
or Hispanic/Latinx qualified for the study. Data collection took
place during Fall 2013 (Wave 1), after winter break 2014 (Wave
2), and at the end of the Spring 2014 semester (Wave 3). Partic-
ipants received a $25 electronic gift card for completing the
45-min Wave 1 and 3 surveys and a $15 electronic gift card for the
15-min Wave 2 survey. Data collection was managed using
REDCap software hosted by the University of Chicago (Harris et
al., 2009). Wave 1 consisted of 535 eligible students, and retention
across Waves 2 and 3 was 95% and 93%, respectively. The host
institutional review board approved all study procedures. Data
from Waves 1 and 3 were used in the current study.
Measures
Mental health outcomes. Mental health outcomes were as-
sessed during Wave 1 and Wave 3.
Stress. Participants completed the 14-item Perceived Stress
Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983). Participants
indicated frequency of stress over the past month on a 5-point
Likert scale (0 Never,1Almost Never,2Sometimes,3
Fairly Often,4Very Often). Items included “Been upset because
of something that happened unexpectedly?” and “Been able to
control irritations in your life?”. Positive items were recoded such
that greater endorsement indicated more stress. Items were aver-
aged to create a stress score and demonstrated good internal
reliability at Wave 1 (␣⫽.83) and Wave 3 (␣⫽.83).
Anxiety. To assess anxiety, participants completed the Gen-
eralized Anxiety Disorder Screener–Symptoms Scale (Carroll &
Davidson, 2000). Participants answered “yes” or “no” to 10 items
regarding their experiences over the past 6 months. Sample items
include “Most days I have trouble concentrating” and “Most days
I cannot stop worrying.” Each “yes” response received 1 point and
a sum score was created; scores ranged from 0 to 10. Items
demonstrated high internal reliability at both Wave 1 (␣⫽.88) and
Wave 3 (␣⫽.89).
Depressive symptoms. We assessed depressive symptoms us-
ing the Harvard Department of Psychiatry/National Depression
Screening Day Scale (HANDS; Baer et al., 2000). Participants
indicated frequency of depressive symptoms over the past 2 weeks
using nine items of the HANDS scale (0 None or a little bit of
the time,1Some of the time,2Most of the time,3All of
the time). Given the sensitive nature, a question regarding suicid-
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3
POLITICAL ACTIVISM AND MENTAL HEALTH
ality was omitted. Sample items include “Had poor appetite” and
“Been feeling hopeless about the future.” Items were averaged to
create a depressive symptoms mean score. Items indicated high
internal reliability at both Wave 1 (␣⫽.92) and Wave 3 (␣⫽.93).
Primary Predictors
Political activism. Political activism was assessed at Wave
3 using six items from the Youth Involvement Inventory (Pan-
cer, Pratt, Hunsberger, & Alisat, 2007). Respondents reported
how often they participated in each activity during freshman
year (September 2013 to June 2014; 1 never,2once,32
or 3 times,44 –5 times,56 –10 times,6more than 10
times). The six items were (a) join a protest, march, meeting, or
demonstration; (b) participate in a boycott (not buying some-
thing because you dislike or disagree with the social or political
values of the company); (c) participate in a buycott (buying a
certain product or service because you like the social or polit-
ical values of the company); (d) given money to or volunteered
for a social or political action group; (e) donate money, toys,
clothing, or other things to a charity or someone in need; and
(f) worked or volunteered for a political campaign. Political
activism has been measured as breadth (number of different
activities; Chen, Propp, & Lee, 2015; Hope & Jagers, 2014;
Hope et al., 2016) and intensity (amount of time spent with all
of the activities; Ballard, 2015; Moore, Hope, Eisman, & Zim-
merman, 2016). Given the proportion of participants who were
not involved in any political activity and to reduce skewness in
our data, we created a political activism breadth score by
counting the total number of activities completed, which ranged
from zero to all six political actions. Of the six possible political
activism items, 57% of participants had donated money, toys,
clothing, or other things to a charity or someone in need; 37%
had given money to or volunteered for a social or political
action group; and 30% of participants reported joining a protest,
march, meeting, or demonstration. Boycotting, buycotting, and
campaigning all had a completion rate of less than 15%. Thirty-
one percent of participants did not participate in any of the six
forms of political activism. Analyses indicated moderate inter-
nal consistency (␣⫽.74).
R/E microaggressions. R/E microaggressions were assessed at
Wave 3 using the seven-item Academic Inferiority subscale of the
School-Based Racial/Ethnic Microaggressions Scale (SBREMA;
Keels, Durkee, & Hope, 2017). The SBREMA is a brief tool that
measures R/E microaggressions in school and academic settings
on the basis of academic inferiority, expectations of aggression,
and stereotypical misrepresentation. Given high correlation
among the three SBREMA subscales (r.64 –.70), we focused
on the Academic Inferiority subscale for these analyses. The
Academic Inferiority subscale measures R/E insults and as-
saults that occur on college campuses and undermine students’
academic ability and intellectual prowess. Items included “Peo-
ple on campus made me feel intellectually inferior at school
because of my race/ethnicity.” Participants reported their fre-
quency of exposure to each microaggression during freshman
year using a 4-point scale (1 Never,2Rarely,3
Sometimes/A moderate amount,4Often/frequently). In this
sample, more than 60% of participants reported that they had
never experienced 10 of the 15 R/E microaggression items.
Furthermore, a low proportion of the sample often or frequently
experienced R/E microaggressions. Previous research with R/E
microaggressions has found low frequencies among participants
and created ordered categorical variables or other transforma-
tions to best reflect the observed response distribution (Mercer,
Zeigler-Hill, Wallace, & Hayes, 2011; Torres-Harding, An-
drade, Romero Diaz, 2012). Thus, following recommended data
reduction procedures and to reduce skewness as a result of the
low proportion of participants who often or frequently experi-
enced R/E microaggressions, responses were recoded as 1 to
indicate the microaggression was experienced and 0 to indicate
the microaggression was never experienced. A sum score was
computed for the Academic Inferiority subscale, and scores
ranged from 0 (no R/E microaggressions)to7(all possible R/E
microaggressions). Internal reliability was high for the subscale
(␣⫽.93).
Control Variables
Gender. Participants indicated their sex and female was coded
1 whereas male was coded 0.
First-generation college status. Participants indicated the
highest level of education completed by their mother and father on
a 9-point scale (1 No school to 9 Professional or grad
school). We coded participants as first-generation college students
if both parents had not graduated from college. If either or both
parents graduated from college, then participants were not coded
as first-generation college students.
Financial distress. A previous study using these data re-
vealed that financial distress was significantly associated with
students’ mental health (Keels, Durkee, Hope, & Goldrick-Rab,
2015); therefore, it is included as a control variable in all
multivariate analyses. At Wave 3, participants reported if they
were upset or worried about not having enough money (1
Extremely upset to 5 Not upset), concerned that they would
not be able to afford to complete their college degree (1
Extremely worried to5Not worried), and had difficulty
paying bills (1 A tremendous amount of difficulty to5No
difficulty at all). These items were averaged and reverse coded
so that higher numbers indicated greater financial distress.
Reliability among these three variables was high (␣⫽.82). To
reduce skewness, financial distress was collapsed into three
categories (low, medium, or high financial distress).
Political efficacy. Participants indicated their endorsement
of internal political efficacy beliefs through a measure that
combined two items from the Black Youth Project (Cohen,
2006) and three items from the Beliefs about Individual Action
and Societal Change Scale (Gurin, Nagda, & Zuniga, 2013).
These five items assessed how much youth believe that they can
positively affect their community and participate in politics.
Participants indicated their level of agreement on a 5-point
Likert scale from 1 (Strongly disagree)to5(Strongly agree).
Sample items include, “Even if it is hard, I still believe I can
change my community” (␣⫽.84).
Data Analysis Plan
We conducted descriptive analyses to investigate bivariate relation-
ships and mean R/E group differences among study variables. Next,
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4HOPE, VELEZ, OFFIDANI-BERTRAND, KEELS, AND DURKEE
we conducted multiple regression analyses for each mental health
indicator. In Step 1, we regressed the control variables onto the Wave
3 mental health outcomes. In Step 2, we added freshman year political
activism and R/E microaggressions. In Step 3, we tested whether the
relationships between R/E microaggressions and mental health were
moderated by political activism. Significant interaction effects were
tested using simple slopes analyses as outlined by Aiken and West
(1991). Green (1991) suggests that a sample size of 50 plus 8 times
the number of predictors is required for multiple linear regression; our
sample size exceeded this requirement and provided sufficient power
for analyses.
To account for missing data, we conducted our analyses in STATA
14 using maximum likelihood with missing values estimation (also
known as full information maximum likelihood) to retain all possible
cases. We also used clustered robust standard error adjustments to
account for nested variance within the five universities that the par-
ticipants were sampled from. We conducted each set of regression
analyses for the full sample and separately for each R/E group. The
relationship patterns were different for Black and Latinx students;
therefore, we describe the results separately for each group.
Results
Preliminary Analyses
Preliminary analyses were conducted to evaluate means, standard
deviations, and bivariate correlations for all study variables (see
Tables 1 and 2). On average, students experienced low levels of stress
(M
w1
1.81, M
w3
1.77), anxiety (M
w1
3.35, M
w3
3.18), and
depressive symptoms (M
w1
.85, M
w3
.77) during the Fall and
Spring semesters of freshman year. Students participated in an aver-
age of one to two forms of political activism (M1.59, SD 1.58)
during freshman year. Students experienced an average of 2.45 (SD
2.70) academic inferiority R/E microaggressions over the course of
freshman year.
Political efficacy and political activism had a small positive corre-
lation for Black (r.17, p.05) and Latinx students (r.24, p
.001). For Latinx students, political efficacy had a low negative
correlation with stress at Wave 1 (r⫽⫺.15, p.05). For Black
students, R/E microaggressions had a low positive correlation with
depressive symptoms at Wave 1 (r⫽⫺.15, p.05). For Latinx
students, R/E microaggressions had a low positive correlation with all
of the mental health indicators with the exception of anxiety at Wave
1. Political activism and R/E microaggressions had a low positive
correlation for Black students (r.20, p.01) and for Latinx
students (r.21, p.01). Mental health outcomes were all mod-
erately and positively correlated with each other at Wave 1 and Wave
3 for both Black and Latinx students. Financial distress was also
correlated with all mental health outcomes.
Analysis of variance revealed mean group differences in
political activism and R/E microaggressions by race/ethnicity.
Black students were engaged in more types of political activism
(M1.81, SD 1.68) than Latinx students (M1.41, SD
1.48), F(1, 442) 7.17, p.008. Black students reported
experiencing more R/E microaggressions during freshman year
(M2.93, SD 2.79) than Latinx students (M2.06, SD
2.57), F(1, 411) 10.91, p.001. There were no mean group
differences in mental health outcomes, financial distress, or
political efficacy by race/ethnicity.
End of Freshman Year Stress
Stress and Black students. In Step 1, we entered each
control variable into the regression model, which accounted for
27% of the variance in stress at the end of freshman year (see
Table 3). Stress at the beginning of freshman year and financial
distress were positively related to stress at the end of freshman
year for Black students. In Step 2, we added political activism
and R/E microaggressions to the model, which accounted for
29% of the variance in stress at the end of freshman year.
Political activism was negatively related to stress; more polit-
ical activism over freshman year was related to less stress at the
end of freshman year. R/E microaggressions were positively
related to stress; students who experienced more R/E microag-
gressions throughout freshman year reported more stress at the
end of freshmen year. In Step 3, we tested the interaction
between R/E microaggressions and political activism. The
model accounted for 30% of the variance in stress at the end of
Table 1
Bivariate Correlations of the Study Variables by Race/Ethnicity (N 504)
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
1. Gender .02 .02 .04 .14
.00 .11 .16
.27
ⴱⴱⴱ
.17
.18
ⴱⴱ
.02
2. First-Generation .12
— .16
.13 .09 .03 .02 .05 .09 .02 .08 .05
3. Financial Distress .13
.11 — .04 .12 .21
ⴱⴱ
.20
ⴱⴱ
.23
ⴱⴱ
.22
ⴱⴱ
.26
ⴱⴱⴱ
.32
ⴱⴱⴱ
.25
ⴱⴱⴱ
4. Political Efficacy .22
ⴱⴱⴱ
.01 .01 — .17
.09 .03 .15 .01 .06 .04 .01
5. Political Activism .21
ⴱⴱⴱ
.02 .04 .24
ⴱⴱⴱ
— .20
ⴱⴱ
.02 .11 .04 .01 .13 .05
6. Microaggressions .00 .08 .21
ⴱⴱⴱ
.00 .21
ⴱⴱ
.09 .13 .08 .00 .15
.10
7. Stress W1 .08 .08 .16
.15
.01 .17
— .49
ⴱⴱⴱ
.58
ⴱⴱⴱ
.45
ⴱⴱⴱ
.65
ⴱⴱⴱ
.41
ⴱⴱⴱ
8. Stress W3 .09 .01 .29
ⴱⴱⴱ
.06 .05 .19
ⴱⴱ
.50
ⴱⴱⴱ
— .35
ⴱⴱⴱ
.45
ⴱⴱⴱ
.37
ⴱⴱⴱ
.53
ⴱⴱⴱ
9. Anxiety W1 .21
ⴱⴱⴱ
.06 .24
ⴱⴱⴱ
.01 .09 .12 .63
ⴱⴱⴱ
.41
ⴱⴱⴱ
— .63
ⴱⴱⴱ
.71
ⴱⴱⴱ
.43
ⴱⴱⴱ
10. Anxiety W3 .18
ⴱⴱ
.01 .28
ⴱⴱⴱ
.01 .02 .14
.45
ⴱⴱⴱ
.53
ⴱⴱⴱ
.62
ⴱⴱⴱ
— .57
ⴱⴱⴱ
.63
ⴱⴱⴱ
11. DS W1 .12
.10 .23
ⴱⴱⴱ
.12 .01 .18
ⴱⴱ
.68
ⴱⴱⴱ
.41
ⴱⴱⴱ
.72
ⴱⴱⴱ
.48
ⴱⴱⴱ
— .56
ⴱⴱⴱ
12. DS W3 .14
.02 .33
ⴱⴱⴱ
.03 .12 .21
ⴱⴱ
.40
ⴱⴱⴱ
.63
ⴱⴱⴱ
.46
ⴱⴱⴱ
.64
ⴱⴱⴱ
.52
ⴱⴱⴱ
Note. Bivariate correlations for Black students presented above the diagonal, and bivariate correlations for Latinx students presented below the diagonal.
DS Depressive Symptoms, W1 Wave 1, W3 Wave 3.
p.05.
ⴱⴱ
p.01.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p.001.
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5
POLITICAL ACTIVISM AND MENTAL HEALTH
freshman year and the interaction between political activism
and R/E microaggressions was significant (see Figure 1). Sim-
ple slope analyses were conducted to probe the interaction. The
relationship between R/E microaggressions and stress was sig-
nificant at 1 SD above the mean of political activism (B.06,
p.001), at the mean level (B.04, p.001), and at 1 SD
below the mean of political activism (B.02, p.002). For
each level of political activism, experiencing more R/E micro-
aggressions throughout freshman year was related to higher
levels of stress at the end of freshman year. The relationship
between R/E microaggressions and stress was stronger for
students who participated in more types of political activism.
Stress and Latinx students. The Step 1 model for Latinx
students accounted for 32% of the variance in stress at the end of
freshman year. Stress at the beginning of freshman year and financial
distress were positively related to end of the year stress. In Step 2, the
model accounted for 32% of the variance in end of the year stress.
Political activism and R/E microaggressions were not significantly
related to end of the year stress. In Step 3, the interaction between
political activism and R/E microaggressions was statistically signifi-
Table 2
Means, Standard Deviations, and Group Mean Difference by Race/Ethnicity (N 504)
Variable
Full Sample Black students (N221) Latinx students (N283)
pM (SD)M(SD)M(SD)
Gender (% female) 64% 75% 56% .001
First-Generation 61% 49% 71% .001
Financial Distress 1.89 (.86) 1.86 (0.86) 1.91 (0.86) .51
Political Efficacy 3.62 (.83) 3.63 (0.86) 3.61 (0.81) .72
Political Activism 1.59 (1.58) 1.81 (1.68) 1.41 (1.48) .008
SBREMA 2.45 (2.70) 2.93 (2.79) 2.06 (2.57) .001
Stress W1 1.81 (0.61) 1.82 (0.61) 1.80 (0.61) .83
Stress W3 1.77 (0.57) 1.81 (0.54) 1.72 (0.59) .09
Anxiety W1 3.35 (3.14) 3.37 (3.17) 3.33 (3.12) .91
Anxiety W3 3.18 (3.23) 3.50 (3.34) 2.91 (3.12) .06
DS W1 0.86 (0.72) 0.90 (0.75) 0.82 (0.70) .23
DS W3 0.77 (0.75) 0.83 (0.75) 0.73 (0.74) .19
Note.DSDepressive Symptoms, W1 Wave 1, W3 Wave 3.
Table 3
Multiple Regression Analyses Predicting Stress at the End of Freshman Year (Wave 3)
Black students
(N221)
Latinx students
(N283)
Step Variable B(SE)B(SE)
1 Stress Wave 1 .40 (.06) .45
ⴱⴱⴱ
.45 (.08) .46
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .13 (.08) .11 .07 (.05) .06
First-Generation .03 (.07) .03 .11 (.04) .09
ⴱⴱ
Financial Distress .08 (.04) .13
.15 (.04) .22
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Efficacy .02 (.04) .03 .05 (.03) .07
R
2
.27 .32
2 Stress Wave 1 .39 (.08) .45
ⴱⴱⴱ
.44 (.08) .45
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .11 (.09) .09 .06 (.06) .05
First-Generation .05 (.07) .04 .11 (.04) .09
Financial Distress .08 (.02) .13
ⴱⴱⴱ
.14 (.03) .21
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Efficacy .01 (.07) .01 .06 (.03) .08
Political Activism .04 (.02) .13
.02 (.02) .04
SBREMA .02 (.01) .10
ⴱⴱ
.02 (.01) .07
R
2
.29 .32
R
2
.02 .00
3 Stress Wave 1 .38 (.07) .43
ⴱⴱⴱ
.43 (.09) .44
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .12 (.08) .10 .05 (.06) .05
First-Generation .05 (.06) .05 .11 (.05) .08
Financial Distress .08 (.02) .13
ⴱⴱⴱ
.15 (.03) .21
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Efficacy .00 (.07) .01 .06 (.04) .09
Political Activism .06 (.02) .19
ⴱⴱ
.02 (.02) .05
SBREMA .02 (.01) .09
ⴱⴱ
.02 (.01) .07
Political Activism SBREMA .01 (.00) .12
ⴱⴱⴱ
.01 (.00) .06
R
2
.30 .32
R
2
.01 .00
p.05.
ⴱⴱ
p.01.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p.001.
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6HOPE, VELEZ, OFFIDANI-BERTRAND, KEELS, AND DURKEE
cant (see Figure 2). Simple slope analyses were conducted to probe
the interaction at the mean and 1 SD above and below the mean. The
simple slopes were not significantly different from zero, but they were
significantly different from each other. For Latinx students who were
involved in fewer forms of political activism, there was a positive
relationship between R/E microaggressions and stress at the end of
freshman year. The opposite was true for Latinx students involved in
more political activism; the relationship between R/E microaggres-
sions and stress was negative, indicating that experiencing more R/E
microaggressions was related to less stress.
End of Freshman Year Anxiety
Anxiety and Black students. The Step 1 model accounted for
44% of the variance in anxiety at the end of freshman year for Black
students (see Table 4). Anxiety at the beginning of freshman year and
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
1.1
1.2
01234567
End of Freshman Year Stress
Number of R/E Microaggressions
Low Political Activism Average Political Activism High Political Activism
Figure 1. Political activism as a moderator of school-based R/E microaggressions (SBREMA) and end of
freshman year stress for Black students.
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
1.1
01234567
End of Freshman Year Stress
Number of R/E Microaggressions
Low Political Activism Average Political Activism High Political Activism
Figure 2. Political activism as a moderator of school-based R/E microaggressions (SBREMA) and end of
freshman year stress for Latinx students.
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7
POLITICAL ACTIVISM AND MENTAL HEALTH
financial distress were positively related to end of freshman year
anxiety. The Step 2 model accounted for 45% of the variance in
anxiety. Neither political activism nor R/E microaggressions were
significantly related to anxiety at Wave 3. In Step 3, the interaction
between R/E microaggressions and political activism was statistically
significant (see Figure 3). Simple slope analyses found that the slope
at the mean and 1 SD above and below the mean were not signifi-
cantly different from zero, but they were significantly different from
Table 4
Multiple Regression Analyses Predicting Anxiety at the End of Freshman Year (Wave 3)
Step Variable
Black students
(N221)
Latinx students
(N283)
B(SE)B(SE)
1 Anxiety Wave 1 .66 (.06) .62
ⴱⴱⴱ
.60 (.08) .59
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .02 (.21) .00 .40 (.46) .06
First-Generation .25 (.26) .04 .34 (.13) .05
ⴱⴱ
Financial Distress .56 (.12) .14
ⴱⴱⴱ
.49 (.17) .13
ⴱⴱ
Political Efficacy .04 (.22) .01 .03 (.17) .01
R
2
.44 .42
2 Anxiety Wave 1 .67 (.06) .63
ⴱⴱⴱ
.60 (.08) .60
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .07 (.18) .01 .60 (.39) .10
First-Generation .19 (.23) .03 .43 (.18) .06
Financial Distress .63 (.12) .16
ⴱⴱⴱ
.39 (.16) .11
Political Efficacy .10 (.19) .03 .12 (.20) .03
Political Activism .10 (.11) .05 .27 (.14) .13
SBREMA .07 (.05) .06 .10 (.05) .08
R
2
.45 .44
R
2
.01 .02
3 Anxiety Wave 1 .66 (.06) .62
ⴱⴱⴱ
.61 (.08) .60
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .01 (.17) .00 .62 (.38) .10
First-Generation .16 (.23) .02 .43 (.17) .06
Financial Distress .63 (.12) .16
ⴱⴱⴱ
.37 (.17) .10
Political Efficacy .15 (.17) .04 .14 (.21) .04
Political Activism .20 (.13) .10 .30 (.13) .14
SBREMA .09 (.05) .07 .10 (.05) .08
Political Activism SBREMA .06 (.02) .10
ⴱⴱ
.03 (.03) .04
R
2
.45 .44
R
2
.00 .00
p.05.
ⴱⴱ
p.01.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p.001.
-0.5
-0.4
-0.3
-0.2
-0.1
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
01234567
End of Freshman Year Anxiety
Number of R/E Microaggressions
Low Political Activism Average Political Activism High Political Activism
Figure 3. Political activism as a moderator of school-based R/E microaggressions (SBREMA) and end of
freshman year anxiety for Black students.
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8HOPE, VELEZ, OFFIDANI-BERTRAND, KEELS, AND DURKEE
each other. For Black students with below average political activism,
more experiences of R/E microaggressions were related to less anx-
iety at the end of freshman year. For Black students who reported
more political activism, more experiences of R/E microaggressions
were related to more anxiety.
Anxiety and Latinx students. Step 1 for Latinx students
accounted for 42% of the variance in anxiety at the end of fresh-
man year. Anxiety at the beginning of freshman year and financial
distress were positively related to anxiety at the end of the year,
and being a first-generation college student was negatively related
to anxiety. In Step 2, the model explained 42% of the variance in
end of the year anxiety. R/E microaggressions were positively
related to end of the year anxiety. In Step 3, the interaction
between political activism and R/E microaggressions was not
statistically significant.
End of Freshman Year Depressive Symptoms
Depressive symptoms and Black students. In Step 1, the
model accounted for 33% of the variance in depressive symptoms
at the end of freshman year (see Table 5). Depressive symptoms at
the beginning of freshman year were positively related to depres-
sive symptoms at the end of freshman year. In Step 2, the model
accounted for no additional variance in depressive symptoms; R/E
microaggressions and political activism were not significantly
related to end of the year depressive symptoms. In Step 3, the
interaction between R/E microaggressions and political activism
was not significant.
Depressive symptoms and Latinx students. For Latinx stu-
dents, the model accounted for 34% of the variance in depres-
sive symptoms at the end of freshman year. Depressive symp-
toms at the beginning of freshman year and financial distress
were positively related to end of the year depressive symptoms.
Political efficacy was negatively related to depressive symp-
toms. In Step 2, the model accounted for 35% of the variance in
end of the year depressive symptoms. Political activism was
positively related to depressive symptoms; students who were
involved in more types of political activism reported more end
of the year depressive symptoms. R/E microaggressions were
not related to end of freshman year depressive symptoms. In
Step 3, the interaction between political activism and R/E
microaggressions was statistically significant (see Figure 4).
Simple slope analyses were conducted to probe the interaction.
The relationship between R/E microaggressions and depressive
symptoms was significant at 1 SD above the mean of political
activism (B⫽⫺.04, p.01) but not at the mean (B⫽⫺.01,
p.32) or 1 SD below the mean of political activism (B.01,
p.17). For Latinx students who participated in more types of
political activism, the relationship between R/E microaggres-
sions and depressive symptoms was negative, indicating that
students who experienced more R/E microaggressions reported
few depressive symptoms at the end of freshman year.
Discussion
Mental health and well-being is a growing concern on college
campuses (CCMH, 2015), particularly for Black and Latinx
college students because they face an increased risk for stress,
anxiety, and depression given hostile racial environments at
PWIs (Ancis et al., 2000; Hinderlie & Kenny, 2002). Scholars
have proposed political activism—taking actions to address
social injustice—as one potential mechanism to lessen the neg-
ative effects of racial discrimination on mental health (Hope &
Spencer, 2017). In this study, we tested that assertion and
examined the utility of political activism as an adaptive coping
strategy against the negative effect of R/E microaggressions on
mental health for Black and Latinx college students. Over the
course of freshman year, Black and Latinx students reported
experiencing several microaggressions that have been reliably
linked to negative emotional arousal and cognitive appraisal
reactions, precursors for more severe mental health issues (Noh,
Kaspar, & Wickrama, 2007; Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000).
Despite this and the general stressors associated with adjusting
to college life, participants in our study reported low levels of
stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. In this regard, there
are differences between stated stressfulness and derived stress-
fulness (Huynh, Devos, & Dunbar, 2012); much of the impact
of racism and microaggressions on psychological health may be
beyond one’s immediate awareness. Although some individuals
do not report stated stressfulness—immediate distress in re-
sponse to subtle racism—there may be evidence of long-term
significance as an indication of derived stressfulness (Torres-
Harding & Turner, 2015). Thus, despite low average levels of
stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, our results point to
the importance of understanding the differences between Black
and Latinx students’ R/E collegiate experiences in relation to
mental health outcomes. Although there were no R/E differ-
ences in mental health at the beginning or end of freshman year,
results suggest some differences in how political activism and
R/E microaggressions relate to stress, anxiety, and depressive
symptoms among Black and Latinx college students.
Experiencing academic inferiority-based R/E microaggres-
sions on campus had mental health consequences for Black and
Latinx students; for Black students, this manifested as higher
levels of stress and for Latinx students this was evidenced by
higher levels of anxiety. Although prior qualitative research has
uncovered differential patterns in how Black and Latinx stu-
dents experience and respond to R/E microaggressions on col-
lege campuses (Solórzano et al., 2000; Yosso, Smith, Ceja, &
Solórzano, 2009), the current study extends this work by relat-
ing R/E microaggression experiences to mental health out-
comes. Just as Black and Latinx students experience R/E mi-
croaggressions in unique ways, the relationship between R/E
microaggressions and mental health is different by race/ethni-
city.
Political activism had a differential and opposite relationship
to mental health outcomes for Black and Latinx students; Black
students who were more politically active during freshman year
reported less stress at the end of freshman year whereas Latinx
students who were more politically active during freshman year
reported more depressive symptoms at the end of freshman
year. Furthermore, political activism moderated the relationship
between R/E microaggressions and mental health indicators in
different ways for Black and Latinx students. For Black stu-
dents who were the most politically active, R/E microaggres-
sions were related to more stress and more anxiety. For polit-
ically active Latinx students, the relationship was reversed;
more R/E microaggressions were related to less stress and less
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9
POLITICAL ACTIVISM AND MENTAL HEALTH
depressive symptoms. For Latinx students, there is evidence to
suggest that political activism might help to reduce the negative
mental health implications of experiencing R/E microaggres-
sions on college campuses. However, for Black students, high
levels of political activism might exacerbate the negative ef-
fects of R/E microaggressions on mental health outcomes. It is
important to note that after accounting for mental health at the
beginning of freshman year, political activism and R/E micro-
aggressions account for a small proportion of variance in mental
health at the end of freshman year; thus, the findings, although
statistically significant, are small. However, given the preva-
lence and consequence of race-related stress (Hope et al., 2015;
Molina et al., 2013), combined with the growing political
participation among Black and Latinx young people (CIRCLE,
2014), these findings do provide some empirical evidence to-
ward considering youth civic engagement as a tool toward
individual and community health (Ballard & Syme, 2016; Hope
& Spencer, 2017).
Bolger and Zuckerman (1995) conceptualize exposure to and
reactivity to stressful experiences as two mechanisms that dif-
ferentially affect individual mental health outcomes. In the
current study, R/E microaggressions provide exposure to a
stressful event and political activism functions as reactivity to a
stressful experience. Thus, the R/E differences in our data may
be attributed to differences between Black and Latinx students
in exposure and reactivity. Black students were more politically
active and experienced more R/E microaggressions on campus
than Latinx students. For Black students, greater exposure to
negative race-based campus interactions can be deleterious to
mental health. Perhaps this race-related stressor combined with
more opportunities for political activism could change their
reactivity to negative R/E events, thus creating differential
outcomes for Black students’ mental health. In essence, for
Black students, exposure to a racially hostile campus changes
and even disrupts the protective effect of political activism,
which was related to lower levels of stress for Latinxs. How-
ever, for Latinx students, exposure to R/E microaggressions and
reactivity via political activism relates to positive mental health
outcomes.
Limitations and Future Directions
Our study has limitations and directions for future research.
First, the number of Black men in the sample was relatively low
(10% of the sample). The sample size contributed to a lack of
power to analyze differences in a way that acknowledges the
intersectionality of several social identities (Cole, 2009). Al-
though this gender imbalance is reflective of the national gen-
der imbalance in college enrollment (Keels, 2013; Lopez &
Gonzalez-Barrera, 2014), it still posed a challenge in investi-
gating race/ethnicity by gender differences. In addition, al-
though we controlled for socioeconomic stress, first-generation
college status, and gender, there may be more nuanced variation
in college experiences and coping processes related to identi-
fication with multiple social groups (e.g., Latinx and working
class).
Table 5
Multiple Regression Analyses Predicting Depressive Symptoms at the End of Freshman Year
(Wave 3)
Step Variable
Black students
(N221)
Latinx students
(N283)
B(SE)B(SE)
1 Depressive Symptoms Wave 1 .55 (.09) .55
ⴱⴱⴱ
.49 (.04)
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .16 (.07) .09
.13 (.07)
First-Generation .03 (.11) .02 .11 (.05)
Financial Distress .07 (.10) .08 .18 (.05)
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Efficacy .01 (.09) .01 .09 (.03)
ⴱⴱ
R
2
.33 .34
2 Depressive Symptoms Wave 1 .56 (.09) .56
ⴱⴱⴱ
.48 (.04) .46
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .18 (.08) .10
.10 (.09) .07
First-Generation .04 (.10) .03 .11 (.03) .07
ⴱⴱ
Financial Distress .07 (.10) .07 .18 (.04) .21
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Efficacy .01 (.09) .01 .11 (.03) .12
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Activism .02 (.02) .06 .06 (.02) .12
ⴱⴱⴱ
SBREMA .00 (.01) .01 .01 (.01) .05
R
2
.33 .35
R
2
.00 .01
3 Depressive Symptoms Wave 1 .55 (.08) .55
ⴱⴱⴱ
.46 (.05) .44
ⴱⴱⴱ
Female .16 (.08) .09
.09 (.09) .06
First-Generation .06 (.10) .04 .10 (.04) .06
ⴱⴱ
Financial Distress .07 (.09) .07 .19 (.05) .22
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Efficacy .03 (.09) .03 .12 (.03) .13
ⴱⴱⴱ
Political Activism .06 (.04) .13 .07 (.02) .15
ⴱⴱⴱ
SBREMA .00 (.01) .00 .01 (.01) .05
Political Activism SBREMA .02 (.01) .15 .02 (.00) .11
ⴱⴱⴱ
R
2
.35 .36
R
2
.02 .01
p.05.
ⴱⴱ
p.01.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p.001.
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10 HOPE, VELEZ, OFFIDANI-BERTRAND, KEELS, AND DURKEE
Furthermore, the amount of variance in mental health out-
comes that is accounted for by political activism and the effect
sizes were small; thus, our findings should be interpreted with
that in mind. In this study, we focused on political activism as
one form of civic engagement and relied on a count of activities
(i.e., breadth of involvement) rather than intensity of involve-
ment in activities or the quality of those experiences. Students
may be engaged in system-level change through other types of
civic engagement, and the quality of the engagement may vary.
Research should consider other dimensions of civic engagement
(Ekman & Amnå, 2012) and how participation and nonpartici-
pation may support adaptive mental health outcomes. Further-
more, research should consider whether and how political ac-
tivism on college campuses puts students at increased risk,
particularly when contending with a hostile or unresponsive
administration. Finally, future research should examine the
relationships between political activism, mental health, R/E
microaggressions, and long-term effects on GPA, college attri-
tion, and graduation for Black and Latinx students. Research in
this area could lead to key insights for university administrators
in the context of mental health concerns on college campuses
and the particular issues for R/E minority students (CCMH,
2015). By understanding the relationships between race-based
campus experiences, political action, and mental health, prac-
titioners can support students in their efforts to create a positive
learning environment in ways that do not threaten mental health
or the primary objective for students— graduation.
Conclusion
As college students contend with racially hostile campus
environments, it is important to investigate the psychological
risks and rewards associated with experiencing discrimination
and engaging in activism to address social injustices. When
students contend with stress, anxiety, or depression during
college, their ability to persist in the face of academic and
sociopolitical challenges is also at risk because they have dif-
ficulty negotiating competing academic demands, making long-
term decisions, and maintaining realistic future expectations
(Mowbray et al., 2006). To successfully navigate the college
environment, students need adaptive coping skills, but adaptive
coping skills are difficult to maintain while facing mental health
challenges. Black and Latinx college students face greater risks
for depression, stress, and other mental health concerns in
response to R/E microaggressions, and these challenges are
even higher for R/E minority students who attend PWIs. Our
study emphasizes how contextual social experiences at PWIs,
specifically R/E microaggressions and political activism, are
differentially associated with mental health outcomes for Black
and Latinx students. Through this line of research, we can
further understand how political activism mitigates or exacer-
bates mental health-related risks for marginalized populations
and identify underlying psychological processes that predict
whether political activism functions as an adaptive or maladap-
tive coping strategy.
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01234567
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14 HOPE, VELEZ, OFFIDANI-BERTRAND, KEELS, AND DURKEE
... This suggests that engaging in Black activism may serve as a protective factor against anti-Black racism or racial stress. Involvement in Black activism, a behavioral manifestation of critical consciousness, can potentially contribute to empowerment and positive mental health outcomes such as life satisfaction, sense of meaning/purpose, self-esteem and collective esteem, personal mastery, connectedness, and psychological well-being (Chioneso et al., 2020;Hope et al., 2018;Mosely et al, 2021). A recent study found that endorsement of stronger racial identity or racial centrality was associated with spending more time in civic engagement (Chapman-Hilliard et al., 2020). ...
... Some studies find that activists report that the following factors as contributors to burnout: a culture of martyrdom, emotional-dispositional causes, structural causes, backlash causes, and in-movement causes (Gorski, 2019). Hope et al. (2018) found that Black students who engaged in higher levels of political activism experienced higher levels of racial/ethnic microaggressions and more stress and anxiety than Black students who engaged in less political activism. ...
... Activists on the front lines have a greater likelihood of direct exposure to the terrors and various expressions of anti-Black racism. Thus, Black activism may increase racism-related stress and trauma (Hope et al., 2018) and place activists at greater risk for both new racial traumas, as well as retraumatization of previous personal racism experience and the historical trauma of enslavement and its ongoing aftermath. However, involvement in Black activism can function as a protective factor that can potentially mediate the impact of racism-related stress and trauma on mental health outcomes (Hope et al., 2018). ...
Article
The purpose of this article is to describe the Black Love, Activism, and Community (BLAC) model of healing and resilience. The assumption of the BLAC model is that Black activism is inspired and sustained by love and community. Building on empirical research, liberation psychology, and African-centered psychology, the BLAC model identifies four culturally grounded domains of resilience (relationships, spirituality, identity, and active expression) that are hypothesized to serve as protective factors. These domains are also postulated to be critical components of culturally centered healing practices. Within the context of anti-Black racism, it is important to understand how activism can mitigate mental health outcomes among Black activists. The BLAC model also describes culturally centered intervention approaches for healing and wellness. Finally, applications of the BLAC model are discussed.
... The study of critical consciousness and wellbeing in young adulthood is characterized by a focus on college students. Six of the nine studies worked with USA college student samples (Ballard et al., 2020;Fernández et al., 2018;Hope et al., 2018;Klar & Kassar, 2009;Vaccaro & Mena 2011;Maker Castro et al., 2022). . Three studies focused on college students facing ethnic/racial marginalization with intersecting marginalizing forces: women of color (Fernández et al., 2018), Black and Latinx mainly first-generation college students (Hope et al., 2018,), and LGBTQ + youth of color (Vaccaro & Mena, 2011). ...
... Six of the nine studies worked with USA college student samples (Ballard et al., 2020;Fernández et al., 2018;Hope et al., 2018;Klar & Kassar, 2009;Vaccaro & Mena 2011;Maker Castro et al., 2022). . Three studies focused on college students facing ethnic/racial marginalization with intersecting marginalizing forces: women of color (Fernández et al., 2018), Black and Latinx mainly first-generation college students (Hope et al., 2018,), and LGBTQ + youth of color (Vaccaro & Mena, 2011). The final two studies focused on racially/ ethnically dominant groups: predominantly White college students (Klar & Kassar, 2009) and ethnically Han Chinese youth, youth of the dominant ethnicity in China (Chan et al., 2021). ...
... Both Ballard et al., (2019b)'s examination of activism and Wray-Lake et al., (2019)'s study of political behaviors find negative associations with mental health within national samples undifferentiated by youth's identities or social locations using the same Add Health sample. Hope et al. (2018) found activism protective of mental health for Latinx youth, but not Black youth, at predominantly White institutions. Yet, using a broader national sample, Ballard et al. (2020) found opposite results, in that both activism and expressive of primarily qualitative studies showed how participation in critical consciousness-related organizations (which included those focused on both reflection and on action) during adolescence promoted specifically socioemotional wellbeing, which includes positive youth development, and emphasized how these spaces help youth to affirm and appreciate themselves. ...
Article
Full-text available
Youth experiencing systemic oppression(s) face heightened challenges to wellbeing. Critical consciousness, comprised of reflection, motivation, and action against oppression, may protect wellbeing. Wellbeing here refers to mental, socioemotional, and physical health. The aim of this systematic review was to synthesize research on the relationship between critical consciousness and wellbeing among adolescents and young adults (ages 12–29). Five databases (PsycInfo, PsychArticles, ERIC, Sociological Abstracts, and PubMed) were searched systematically using keyword searches and inclusion/exclusion criteria; 29 eligible studies were included. Results demonstrated that the critical consciousness and wellbeing relationship varied by critical consciousness dimension and age. The studies of adolescents most often focused on racial/ethnic marginalization and found critical motivation most strongly associated with better wellbeing. The studies of young adults focused on young adult college students and identified mixed results specifically between activism and mental health. Study methods across age spans were primarily quantitative and cross-sectional. Research on critical consciousness and wellbeing can benefit from studies that consider multiple critical consciousness dimensions, use longitudinal approaches, and include youth experiencing multiple and intersecting systems of privilege and marginalization.
... Indeed, among Black, but not Latinx, college students, political activism exacerbates the effect of racial microaggressions on anxiety and stress. 22 Given the potential for positive and negative associations between anti-racism action and functioning, we did not make specific hypotheses regarding the direction of association between risk profiles and college functioning. ...
... Although prior work has indicated that critical civic engagement among youth of color may lead to worse psychological functioning, 22 findings from this study indicate comparable levels of psychological functioning between youth in the high anti-racism action and average risk profiles. However, consistent with our expectations, students in the high health risk profile endorsed worse psychological functioning than their peers in the average risk profile. ...
Article
Objective: This study expands the literature on risk taking among college students by exploring anti-racism action as a form of positive risk taking. Participants: 346 Black (64%) and Latinx (36%) college students (85% female) ages 18-27 years (M = 18.75, SD = 1.31). Methods: Participants responded to questionnaires on anti-racism action, health-risk taking, and college functioning. Latent class analysis identified behavioral profiles of risk takers. Indicators of profile membership and associations with college functioning were examined. Results: Three profiles emerged: moderate overall risk taking, high health-risk taking, and high anti-racism action. Personal experience with discrimination was associated with a greater likelihood of health-risk taking. Students in the high anti-racism profile evinced greater educational functioning than those in the high-health risk taking profile. Conclusions: Risky behavior on college campuses is not homogeneous. Specific interventions and support networks are necessary to support students falling within specific risk profiles.
... Research is needed to determine the extent to which social and political engagement to address police-involved injuries and killings of African Americans might protect against psychological distress. Studies that examine the political behavior of college students have found that African Americans who experience racism and discrimination experience lower levels of depression and anxiety when they outwardly support social justice groups, such as BLM [23,24]. Taking action, such as delivering a speech or participating in a protest, increases feelings of optimism and empowerment, and increases social solidarity and identification with one's racial and social class background, which have been shown in prior research to alleviate psychological distress [25][26][27]. ...
... The models included sex, age, education, household income, and homeownership as covariates a Bias-corrected bootstrapped confidence intervals (10,000 bootstrap samples) [23]. Also, previous research has shown that African Americans who are more engaged in social activism are more cognizant of microaggressions and vulnerable to stress and anxiety symptoms than African Americans who are less engaged in social activism [24]. In addition, sustained activism tends to increase feelings of hopelessness and frustration, especially if social change is slow or nonexistent [28]. ...
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This study explored the role of social activism in the association of exposure to media coverage of police brutality and protests with perceptions of mental health. Data for this study came from a sample of African Americans (N = 304) who responded to an online survey. Perceptions of mental health were assessed using a single item developed by the research team. Exposure to police brutality and protests was measured by asking how often they had seen or heard about African Americans being victims of police brutality and seen or heard about protests on television, social media, or other outlets. Participants were also asked about the extent to which these events caused them emotional distress. Social activism was assessed by asking participants if they had ever participated in political activities, such as calling their representative. Moderation and mediation analyses were conducted using linear regression. Moderation analyses showed that greater emotional distress from watching media coverage of police brutality and protests was associated with worse perceptions of mental health only when engagement in social activism was low. In contrast, mediation analyses indicated that greater frequency of and emotional distress from exposure to media coverage was indirectly associated with worse perceptions of mental health through increased engagement in social activism. Social activism may be an important method for coping with emotional distress from watching media coverage of police brutality and protests, but more research is needed to understand how African Americans might engage in social activism without adversely impacting mental health.
Article
Black women have played an integral role in Black liberation struggles. Yet there is little psychological scholarship on Black women’s contribution to social justice movements, particularly beyond conventional forms of activism, such as protesting and voting. To address this gap, the current study draws on Black feminist epistemology to present a multidimensional framework of Black college women’s sociopolitical development. Using consensual qualitative research methods, we analyzed semistructured interview data from 65 Black college women (18-24 years) to explore their understandings of agency, civic engagement, and resistance. Eight themes emerged— gaining knowledge, self-advocacy, sisterhood, self-love, educating others, collective organizing and leadership, community care, and career aspirations. Our results situate Black college women’s activism within a sociohistorical framework of Black feminist organizing and underscore the overlapping roles of self-awareness, interpersonal relationships, and institutional knowledge. The authors discuss how the contemporary racial and sociopolitical climate in the United States informed the participants’ social justice orientation and how their involvement and investment in the Black community helped the participants reframe racial violence and oppression into narratives of resistance and healing.
Article
A theoretical and empirical reflection on the possibilities of broadening sociopolitical development (SPD) to consider how emotional work contributes to the development of a sociopolitical emotional awareness among young organizers resisting racial injustices is discussed. Sociopolitical emotional awareness brings together the intellectual and the emotional through sociopolitical engagement practices of discerning emotions through critical reflection, de/re-centering emotions and anchoring affirming emotions. We observed these practices among young organizers in youth community organizing (YCO) settings where SPD was a priority yet emotional work surfaced as an important component. We offer a conceptual framework for emotional work that extends SPD and is informed by analyses of our interview and fieldnote data of three YCO sites that supported youth in their organizing. Through this work we aim to expand current SPD theorizing, while challenging existing youth development frameworks that overlook the role of emotions in relation to collection action aimed at actualizing transformative racial justice. We conclude with implications and future directions on the significance of emotional work within YCO settings in particular. Moreover, we see emotions as essential to a young organizer’s SPD, inclusive of their efforts toward actualizing equitable, healthy and thriving anti-racist school and community environments.
Article
Grassroots movements such as Poder Quince exemplify how Latinx youth intertwine their cultural heritage and traditions with civic action to create positive change within their communities. Parents' cultural socialization messages have been shown to instill cultural pride and encourage prosocial behaviors (e.g., helping others, caring for younger siblings). However, there is a dearth of research on the sociopolitical discussions Latinx adolescents have with their parents and the mechanisms by which cultural socialization encourages prosocial civic development. Drawing on data from a sample of 269 self-identified Latinx youth from three Midwestern US schools, the present study explored the direct links between parental cultural socialization and adolescents' sense of social responsibility (i.e., concern for others and caring for community) as well as the potential indirect associations via sociopolitical and civic socialization at home. Our findings suggest direct associations between cultural socialization and caring for their communities. Additionally, we observed indirect associations between cultural socialization and youths' social responsibility via family civic socialization practices and engagement in sociopolitical discussions taking place in the home.
Article
Existing research addresses violence in youth activism from two directions, broader societal violence or specific violence targeting political action. Nonetheless, these are explored separately according to type of activism, suggesting that this is the most relevant factor shaping violence in youth activism. This article captures other crucial factors by exploring both directions together and bringing in the concept of everyday violence. Grounded theory method and situational maps were used to collect and analyse qualitative interviews with young adult activists in three Swedish cities. Three conditions were found that crosscut youth activism to shape meanings and actions of unsafety: temporal, spatial and organizational. Across the three cities, temporal conditions produced shared experiences among young adult activists with social dimensions of unsafety, which corresponded to broader societal violence. In the third city, spatial and organizational conditions produced different experiences with political dimensions of unsafety, which corresponded to specific violence targeting political action.
Article
Introduction Because of their regular contact with students, faculty can find themselves in the position of needing to support student’s emotional needs, a task for which not everyone feels well trained. Statement of the Problem COVID-19 has exacerbated existing mental health concerns and created additional problems related to low levels of motivation, increased loneliness, and heightened levels of stress. Literature Review Fortunately, psychological science can explain the causes of these symptoms as well as offer evidence-based interventions. The literature related to motivation, loneliness, and stress is reviewed with an emphasis placed on common studies or theories that are covered in typical psychology curriculums. Teaching Implications Evidence-based classroom interventions and assignments designed to promote student well-being are discussed. Conclusion Grounding discussions of student’s emotional reactions within the psychological literature may help instructors without a mental health background better support student’s emotional needs, illustrate course concepts, and model the practice of clinical science while helping to promote student well-being.
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Emerging adulthood is a critical developmental period that bridges adolescence and adulthood and is distinguished by identity exploration through education, vocation, relationships, and culture. However, the transition to adulthood is disrupted for African Americans, because they experience interpersonal and institutional discrimination in everyday settings including school, employment, and housing. In this article, we provide a summary of the current literature and explore the psychological, physiological, and sociopolitical consequences of racial discrimination for African American emerging adults. Extant research underscores the stress that discrimination places on African American emerging adults and the deleterious effects that discrimination has on mental and physical health. Equally, scholarship highlights the significance of discrimination in shaping African American emerging adult sociopolitical development. Finally, we recommend applications of the current literature toward the well-being and development of African American emerging adults and their communities in terms of clinical care, socialization, and civic engagement.
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Health researchers and practitioners increasingly recognise the important role communities play in shaping individual health. Health researchers recognise the role of community factors as causes or determinants of health problems; use community-based methods for understanding complex health issues; and design community-level health solutions. In this commentary, we propose a fourth way to think about the role of communities in individual health by arguing that the community engagement process itself has implications for individual health and strong communities. This topic is especially important during adolescence, a developmental window of opportunity during which individuals need meaningful opportunities to contribute to the world around them.
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In this article, Tara Yosso, William Smith, Miguel Ceja, and Daniel Solórzano expand on their previous work by employing critical race theory to explore and understand incidents of racial microaggressions as experienced by Latina/o students at three selective universities. The authors explore three types of racial microaggressions-interpersonal microaggressions, racial jokes, and institutional microaggressions-and consider the effects of these racist affronts on Latina/o students. Challenging the applicability of Vincent Tinto's three stages of passage for college students, the authors explore the processes by which Latinas/os respond to racial microaggressions and confront hostile campus racial climates. The authors find that, through building community and developing critical navigation skills, Latina/o students claim empowerment from the margins.
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Objective: This study examined mental health treatment barriers following intake at a counseling center among racially/ethnically diverse college students. Methods: College students (N = 122) seen for intake at a college counseling center in 2012-2013 completed self-reports of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and mental health treatment barriers 6 months later. Results: Racial/ethnic minority students less often reported previous mental health treatment and treatment after being seen at the counseling center, compared with white students. They also endorsed more treatment barriers--most commonly, financial concerns and lack of time--and more often endorsed stigma-related concerns. Treatment barriers were associated with not following through with counseling center recommendations and with greater depressive symptom severity but not with suicidal ideation during follow-up. Conclusions: Improving mental health treatment seeking among racial/ethnic minority college students should involve decreasing treatment barriers, improving access to affordable options, providing flexible scheduling or time-limited options, and decreasing stigma.
Chapter
In this chapter we use Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (P-VEST) to consider civic engagement as a coping response to systems of inequality faced by racial minority children. After a brief introduction we present a historical and theoretical overview of civic engagement with regard to children and adolescents and racially marginalized communities. We then introduce the P-VEST framework and examine civic engagement as a proactive reactive coping method to counteract the vulnerability and stress of systematic racial injustice. Following a discussion of the current empirical literature we explore the utility of civic engagement programs (e.g., Youth Participatory Action Research) as interventions to support positive development of minority youth. We conclude with policy implications and future directions for research to leverage civic engagement as a coping strategy for the positive development of minority children and their communities.
Article
Civic engagement maintains the viability of democratic society and promotes positive outcomes for those who participate. Young adults' patterns of civic engagement differ according to the type of activity, yet little is known about the psychological mechanisms that lead to different types of participation. We tested the relationship between two types of sociopolitical beliefs (sense of agency and systems worldview) and two distinct forms of civic engagement: political involvement and community service. We hypothesized that agency would predict both forms of engagement and that systems worldview would moderate the relationship between agency and political involvement, but have little effect on community service. Using data from a racially diverse national sample of highly engaged young adults (n = 259), we conducted hierarchical linear multiple regression analyses and found that agency predicted both political involvement and community service. We found that systems worldview moderated the relationship between agency and both forms of civic engagement.
Article
The transition from adolescence to adulthood is formative for civic development. Unfortunately, many adolescents from Latino and Asian backgrounds experience discrimination, which can alienate them from civic life. This study employed cross-lagged structural equation modeling to test the bidirectional links between perceived discrimination and civic beliefs and activism among Latino and Asian late adolescents (N = 400, M age = 17.34, 61% female). Civic beliefs (i.e., believing that the government is unresponsive) and civic activism (i.e., protesting and expressing political opinions) in high school predicted increased perceptions of discrimination over time. Perceiving high levels of discrimination in high school predicted a decrease in the belief that society is fair over time.
Book
Due to continuing immigration and increasing racial and ethnic inclusiveness, higher education institutions in the United States are likely to grow ever more diverse in the 21st century. This shift holds both promise and peril: Increased inter-ethnic contact could lead to a more fruitful learning environment that encourages collaboration. On the other hand, social identity and on-campus diversity remain hotly contested issues that often raise intergroup tensions and inhibit discussion. How can we help diverse students learn from each other and gain the competencies they will need in an increasingly multicultural America? Dialogue Across Difference synthesizes three years worth of research from an innovative field experiment focused on improving intergroup understanding, relationships and collaboration. The result is a fascinating study of the potential of intergroup dialogue to improve relations across race and gender. First developed in the late 1980s, intergroup dialogues bring together an equal number of students from two different groups such as people of color and white people, or women and men to share their perspectives and learn from each other. To test the possible impact of such courses and to develop a standard of best practice, the authors of Dialogue Across Difference incorporated various theories of social psychology, higher education, communication studies and social work to design and implement a uniform curriculum in nine universities across the country. Unlike most studies on intergroup dialogue, this project employed random assignment to enroll more than 1,450 students in experimental and control groups, including in 26 dialogue courses and control groups on race and gender each. Students admitted to the dialogue courses learned about racial and gender inequalities through readings, role-play activities and personal reflections. The authors tracked students progress using a mixed-method approach, including longitudinal surveys, content analyses of student papers, interviews of students, and videotapes of sessions. The results are heartening: Over the course of a term, students who participated in intergroup dialogues developed more insight into how members of other groups perceive the world. They also became more thoughtful about the structural underpinnings of inequality, increased their motivation to bridge differences and intergroup empathy, and placed a greater value on diversity and collaborative action. The authors also note that the effects of such courses were evident on nearly all measures. While students did report an initial increase in negative emotions a possible indication of the difficulty of openly addressing race and gender that effect was no longer present a year after the course. Overall, the results are remarkably consistent and point to an optimistic conclusion: intergroup dialogue is more than mere talk. It fosters productive communication about and across differences in the service of greater collaboration for equity and justice. Ambitious and timely, Dialogue Across Difference presents a persuasive practical, theoretical and empirical account of the benefits of intergroup dialogue. The data and research presented in this volume offer a useful model for improving relations among different groups not just in the college setting but in the United States as well.