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Supportive Parenting Moderates the Effect of Discrimination upon Anger, Hostile View of Relationships, and Violence among African American Boys


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Studies have shown that exposure to discrimination increases the probability that African American adolescents will engage in delinquent behavior, especially acts of violence. The present study extended this research by examining the extent to which supportive parenting buffers a youth from these deleterious consequences of discrimination. Analyses based upon two waves of data from a sample of 332 African American adolescent males and their caretakers supported this hypothesis. Further the results indicated that there are two avenues whereby supportive parenting reduces the probability that discrimination will lead to violence. First, supportive parenting decreases the chances that discrimination will lead to anger and a hostile view of relationships. Second, supportive parenting lowers the risk that anger or a hostile view of relationships, when they develop, will result in violence.
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Supportive Parenting Moderates
the Effect of Discrimination upon Anger,
Hostile View of Relationships, and
Violence among African American Boys*
University of Georgia
Western Kentucky University
University of Missouri–St. Louis
University of Georgia
Iowa State University
Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2006, Vol 47 (December): 373–389
Studies have shown that exposure to discrimination increases the probability
that African American adolescents will engage in delinquent behavior, espe-
cially acts of violence. The present study extended this research by examining
the extent to which supportive parenting buffers a youth from these deleterious
consequences of discrimination. Analyses based upon two waves of data from a
sample of 332 African American adolescent males and their caretakers sup-
ported this hypothesis. Further, the results indicated that there are two avenues
whereby supportive parenting reduces the probability that discrimination will
lead to violence. First, supportive parenting decreases the chances that dis-
crimination will lead to anger and a hostile view of relationships. Second, sup-
portive parenting lowers the risk that anger or a hostile view of relationships,
when they develop, will result in violence.
Several child and family researchers have
called for studies investigating developmental
processes and patterns of resilience that might
be unique to particular ethnic groups (Garcia-
Coll et al. 1996; Hughes, Seidman, and
Williams 1993; McLoyd 1990; Spencer 1990).
* This research was supported by grants MH48165
and MH62669 from the National Institute of Mental
Health and by grant 029136-02 from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Additional funding
for this project was provided by the National
Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the Iowa
Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment
Station (Project 3320). Address correspondence to
Ronald Simons, Department of Sociology,
University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 (email:
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These researchers warn against the dangers of
adopting a “one model fits all” approach when
studying children of color, and they emphasize
the importance of considering factors common
to the everyday lives of the cultural group that
is the focus of study. Such factors include
racial and ethnic values that may influence
competencies, as well as events that pose
threats to adjustment such as racism, discrimi-
nation, and prejudice.
In response to this appeal, numerous recent
studies have investigated the link between per-
ceived discrimination and psychological dis-
tress. This research has reported an association
between exposure to ethnic discrimination and
depression for African Americans (Williams et
al. 1997), Hispanics (Salgado de Snyder 1987),
and Asians (Noh et al. 1998). Although most
studies have focused on adults, Rumbaut
(1994) found a positive relationship between
discrimination and depressive symptoms for
Latino adolescents, and recently both DuBois
and associates (2002) and Simons and associ-
ates (2002) reported such an association for
African American children.
While a number of studies have investigated
the association between perceived discrimina-
tion and internalizing problems, much less at-
tention has been devoted to the possible link
between discrimination and externalizing
problems. This is unfortunate, as children and
adolescents of color have been shown to have
significantly higher rates of antisocial behavior
than the white population (see Hawkins 2003).
This is particularly true for African American
youths. Although their rates of depression are
comparable to those of white youngsters, evi-
dence from a variety of sources suggests that
African American children are much more
likely than European American children to dis-
play conduct problems, delinquent behavior,
and crime (Gibbs 1998). The differences are
especially large for acts of aggression and vio-
lence. Official statistics indicate that the delin-
quency case rate for black juveniles is more
than double that for whites (U.S. Department
of Justice 1998), while homicide rates for
African American youth are nine times higher
than for white youth (Gibbs 1998). Although
differences in arrest are partially an artifact of
racially biased law enforcement (Walker,
Spohn, and DeLone 2000), self-report studies
also demonstrate racial differences (Tittle and
Paternoster 2000). Data from the National
Youth Survey indicate, for example, that the ra-
tio of black-to-white involvement in felony as-
sault is 2.2 to 1, and the ratio for robbery is 3
to 1 (Elliott, Huizinga, and Menard 1989).
Finally, controlling for socioeconomic status
reduces but does not eliminate the relationship
between race and violent crime (Hawkins
2003; Elliott et al. 1989).
These findings underscore the importance
of research investigating the factors that place
African American youths at risk for delinquen-
cy and crime, especially illegal acts involving
violence. Recent evidence from four studies of
African Americans indicates that part of the
explanation may involve racial discrimination.
In a cross-sectional study of black preadoles-
cents and early adolescents living in a small
Midwestern city, DuBois and associates (2002)
found that perceived discrimination was asso-
ciated with elevated stress and behavior prob-
lems, including aggression. Similarly, Simons
and associates (2003) reported that perceived
discrimination predicted increases in delin-
quency among a panel of several hundred
African American children residing in Georgia
and Iowa. Finally, using data from the
Woodlawn project in Chicago, McCord and
Ensminger (1997, 2002) found that self-reports
of discrimination during childhood were relat-
ed to adult arrests for violent crime.
Together, these studies provide rather strong
evidence that perceived discrimination increas-
es an individual’s risk for aggression and vio-
lence. The present study extends this research
by testing the hypothesis that supportive par-
enting practices buffer African American youth
from these deleterious consequences of dis-
crimination. Further, we investigate the mech-
anisms whereby supportive parenting exercises
this protective function. Evidence from prior
research (Simons et al. 2003) suggests that the
impact of discrimination upon violent delin-
quency is mediated by anger and a hostile view
of relationships. We posit that supportive par-
enting reduces the association between dis-
crimination and violence through its effect on
these two mediators. These hypotheses are de-
veloped in the following sections, and we then
test them using two waves of data collected
from a panel of 332 African American boys liv-
ing in the Southeast and Midwest.
Strain theories of delinquency view antiso-
cial behavior as an adaptation to stressful cir-
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cumstances. Consistent with this perspective,
many studies have shown that exposure to
stressful circumstances increases the probabil-
ity that adolescents will engage in delinquent
behavior (for a review, see Agnew 2005).
Recently, criminologist Robert Agnew (2001)
has attempted to specify the types of stresses
and strains that are most likely to lead to delin-
quency. He argues that strain is most likely to
result in delinquent behavior, especially vio-
lence, when it is seen as unjust, threatens im-
portant activities or identities, and leaves few
options for coping other than delinquent be-
havior. Racial/ethnic discrimination might be
seen as a stressor that meets these conditions.
If Agnew is correct about the types of strain
that lead to crime, racial/ethnic discrimination
should predict increased involvement in vio-
lent delinquency.
As noted above, three recent studies of
African American youth (DuBois et al. 2002;
McCord and Ensminger 1997, 2002; Simons et
al. 2003) support this hypothesis. These studies
find that perceived discrimination is related to
delinquency, even after controlling for a num-
ber of factors that have been shown to influ-
ence participation in antisocial behavior (e.g.,
family income, quality of parenting, affiliation
with deviant peers). Further, although DuBois
and associates employed cross-sectional data,
the other two studies utilized a panel design.
Longitudinal data provide important informa-
tion regarding the causal priorities that under-
lie the relationship between discrimination and
violent delinquency.
A correlation between these two variables
does not tell us whether violent delinquency in-
creases the chances of discrimination, or
whether discrimination leads to violent delin-
quency. Labeling theorists argue that conven-
tional members of society tend to mistrust,
avoid, and discriminate against individuals
with a criminal history (Paternoster and
Iovanni 1989; Sampson and Laub 1997),
whereas strain theorists contend that the stress
produced by discrimination leads to violence.
Although both positions seem plausible, recent
analyses based upon longitudinal data favor the
latter perspective. Over time, the effect of dis-
crimination upon delinquency is significantly
stronger than the effect of delinquency on dis-
crimination (Simons et al. 2003). Thus, re-
search to date supports strain theory’s claim
that exposure to discrimination increases the
probability that a child will engage in delin-
quent behavior.
Stressful circumstances lead to delinquen-
cy, according to Agnew (1992, 2001), because
they generate negative affect that creates pres-
sures to take action that may include aggres-
sion and violence. Consonant with this idea,
several studies have reported that the associa-
tion between stressful events and involvement
in delinquency is mediated by emotional re-
actions such as frustration and anger
(Aseltine, Gore, and Gordon 2000; Broidy
2001; Mazerolle and Piquero 1998; Piquero
and Sealock 2000). Presumably, these nega-
tive affective states also account for the asso-
ciation between discrimination and violent
One of the discrimination studies discussed
earlier reported findings consistent with this
assumption. Simons and associates (2003)
found that negative emotions mediated much
of the relationship between discrimination and
delinquency. The remainder of the association
was explained by adolescents’ views of people
and relationships. Those who had experienced
a high level of discrimination tended to hold a
cynical, hostile view of others, and this view-
point increased their probability of engaging in
delinquent behavior. This finding is consistent
with Dodge’s (1980, 1991) contention that per-
sistent exposure to abusive interaction causes
children to develop a hostile view of relation-
ships, and that children who possess such a
perspective tend to attribute malevolent mo-
tives to others and to assume that an aggres-
sive, belligerent attitude is necessary to avoid
exploitation (see also Dodge, Bates, and Pettit
Research has shown that this view of rela-
tionships is strongly held by both aggressive
children and institutionalized delinquents
(Dodge et al. 1990; Slaby and Guerra 1988).
Research by Dodge and associates suggests
that abusive parenting is one type of harsh
treatment that leads to a hostile view of rela-
tionships (Dodge et al.1990, 1995). The study
by Simons and associates (2003) suggests that
racial discrimination may also foster this attri-
butional bias.
Given the high prevalence of prejudice and
discrimination in this country, these findings
provide reason for concern. It may be the case,
however, that there are actions African
American parents can take to reduce the prob-
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ability that their children will respond to dis-
crimination by engaging in antisocial behavior.
Unlike majority-population white parents,
African American parents face the challenge of
preparing their children to live in a society
where they are frequently devalued (Demo and
Hughes 1990; Thornton et al. 1990). Thus,
racial socialization is a common component of
African American mothers’ and fathers’ par-
enting practices (Hughes and Chen 1997).
Broadly defined, racial socialization consists
of messages that parents send their children re-
garding racial identity and status (Thornton et
al. 1990; Stevenson 1997). Research indicates
that there is considerable variation in the types
of messages that African American parents
send their children regarding race (Hughes and
Chen 1997; Peters 1985). Stevenson (1997;
Stevenson et al. 1997) has presented prelimi-
nary evidence suggesting that the most effec-
tive approach to racial socialization involves
teaching children about the realities of racial
oppression while emphasizing the possibility
of achieving success in the face of these obsta-
cles. Unfortunately, our data set does not in-
clude measures of parental racial socialization
(although such measures will be included in
the next wave of data collection). However, the
data set does contain assessments of several
more general dimensions of parental behavior,
and we believe that those relating to parental
support may moderate some of the deleterious
effects of discrimination.
Although there is evidence that the meaning
and effect of some parenting practices (e.g.,
spanking) may vary by cultural group (Deater-
Decker and Dodge, 1997; McLoyd et al. 2000;
Simons et al. 2002), this does not appear to be
the case for supportive parenting. Supportive
parents are warm and nurturing, help their chil-
dren solve problems, provide reasons for their
decisions, and avoid harsh and rejecting par-
enting practices. Past research has demonstrat-
ed that being the recipient of such parenting
behaviors is beneficial to children regardless of
ethnicity or social circumstances (Brody et al.
2002; Simons, Simons, and Wallace 2004).
Along with the other positive consequences of
such parenting, we expect that it reduces the
probability that discrimination will lead to vi-
olent delinquency. Further, we expect that sup-
portive parenting exerts this effect because of
its impact upon the anger and hostile view of
relationships that link discrimination to vio-
There are two ways in which supportive par-
ents might exercise such an influence. First,
parents’ supportive involvement might serve to
soothe children’s anger and provide loving, re-
spectful models of relationships. This would
have the effect of diminishing the extent to
which experiences of discrimination affect
children’s emotional state or foster a distorted
view of relationships. Second, parental support
may reduce the probability that anger or a hos-
tile view of relationships, once developed, will
result in violence. Stated differently, discrimi-
nation may foster anger and a hostile view of
others, but the supportive involvement of the
parent might reduce the chances of children
acting upon these feelings and cognitions by
engaging in violent behavior. We expect that
supportive parenting moderates the impact of
discrimination on violent delinquency in both
of these ways.
In summary, we intend to test the following
hypotheses. First, we expect that various di-
mensions of supportive parenting (viz.,
warmth/affection, problem solving, reasoning,
and avoidance of hostility/rejection), as well as
a composite measure of supportive parenting,
will operate as buffers in the relationship be-
tween discrimination and violent delinquency.
Second, we posit that supportive parenting pro-
duces this effect in two ways: (1) by reducing
the probability that discrimination will result in
anger and a hostile view of relationships, and
(2) by diminishing the risk that anger or a hos-
tile view of relationships will result in violent
We test these hypotheses using two waves of
data from 332 boys in the Family and
Community Health Study (FACHS). Our
analyses only focus on boys, as the girls in the
FACHS sample did not report enough involve-
ment in violent delinquency to permit analysis.
While violent delinquency for boys ap-
proached a normal distribution after logarith-
mic transformation, the distribution for girls
remained seriously skewed, regardless of the
transformation employed, given the small num-
ber of girls who reported having engaged in vi-
olence. This finding is consistent with the re-
sults of prior studies showing that physical vi-
olence is largely a male phenomenon (Geen
1998). The aggression of girls tends to be more
indirect, often involving activities designed to
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damage the victim’s peer relationships (e.g.,
verbal attack, spreading rumors, giving the
silent treatment; Geen 1998). Unfortunately,
the data used in the present study do not in-
clude measures of indirect aggression.
We tested our hypotheses using two waves of
data from FACHS, a multisite investigation of
neighborhood and family effects on health and
development. The FACHS sample consists of
several hundred African American families liv-
ing in Georgia and Iowa. Most research on the
effects of neighborhood characteristics and
other contextual factors on African American
parents and children has centered on families
living in the impoverished inner core of large
metropolitan areas. This focus does not ac-
knowledge the diversity of African American
families and the variety of communities in
which they live. FACHS was designed to iden-
tify neighborhood and family processes that
contribute to school-age African American
children’s development in families living in a
wide variety of community settings outside the
inner-city core. Each family included a child
who was in fifth grade at the time of recruit-
ment. Interviews were conducted with the tar-
get child and his or her primary caregiver (for
more information on sampling procedures, see
Simons et al. 2005).
Families were recruited from neighborhoods
that varied on demographic characteristics,
specifically racial composition (percent
African American) and economic level (per-
cent of families with children living below the
poverty line). Block groups were used to iden-
tify neighborhoods. Using 1990 census data,
block groups were identified in both Iowa and
Georgia in which the percent of African
American families was high enough to make
recruitment economically practical (10% or
higher), and in which the percent of families
with children living below the poverty line
ranged from 10 to 100 percent. Using this cri-
terion, 259 block groups were identified (115
in Georgia and 144 in Iowa). The study fami-
lies were recruited from these block groups.
Block groups in Georgia came from loca-
tions such as south Atlanta, the Stone
Mountain area, Athens, and several small
towns and cities in the north-central portion of
the state. In Iowa, all of the block groups that
met the study criteria were located in two com-
munities: Waterloo/Cedar Falls, with a metro-
politan population of approximately 120,000,
and the Des Moines metropolitan area, with a
population of approximately 350,000. In both
Georgia and Iowa, families were randomly se-
lected from rosters and contacted to determine
their interest in participating in the project. The
response rate for the contacted families was 84
To evaluate the variability and representa-
tiveness of the neighborhoods included in our
sample, we compared census tracts included in
the FACHS sample with those in Georgia and
Iowa that were not included. No significant dif-
ferences were found in Iowa. For Georgia, av-
erage and median family incomes were some-
what lower among the tracts in the study than
in those excluded. Further analysis showed this
to be a result of the study sample having a
slight underrepresentation of high-income cen-
sus tracts.
Two waves of data were collected from the
Georgia and Iowa families using identical re-
search procedures. The first wave was collect-
ed in 1998 and the second in 2000. At wave 1,
the participants were 867 African American
children (400 boys and 467 girls; 462 in Iowa
and 405 in Georgia) and their primary care-
givers. The children were 10 to 12 years old
(mean of 10.5 years) at wave 1 of data collec-
tion. Seven hundred thirty-eight of the children
(361 boys and 418 girls) and their caregivers
were interviewed again at wave 2. This was a
response rate of 86 percent. Analyses indicate
that the families who did not participate at
wave 2 did not differ significantly from those
who did with regard to caregiver income and
education or child’s age, gender, school perfor-
mance, or delinquency.
Complete data for the measures used in this
paper were available for 332 boys and their pri-
mary caregivers. A primary caregiver was de-
fined as a person living in the same household
as the target child and who was responsible for
a majority of the child’s care. Most (84%) of
the primary caregivers were the target child’s
biological mother (6% were the child’s father;
6% were the child’s grandmother). The prima-
ry caregivers’ mean age was 37.1 years and
ranged from 23 to 80 years. Education ranged
from less than high school (19%) to advanced
graduate degrees (3%). The mode and median
was a high school degree (41%). Ninety-two
percent of the primary caregivers identified
themselves as African American. Seventy-one
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percent of them were employed full or part
time, 15 percent were unemployed, 6 percent
were disabled, and 5 percent were full-time
homemakers. Median family income was
$26,227, and the average number of children
was 3.42. There was no significant difference
in income or education of the primary caregiv-
er between the Iowa and Georgia subsamples.
Our analyses utilized measures of violent
delinquency, discrimination, caretaker behav-
ior, anger, and hostile view of relationships as-
sessed at both waves 1 and 2. Child reports
were used to construct our measures of dis-
crimination, violence, anger, and hostile view
of relationships. In an effort to reduce the prob-
lem of shared methods bias, caregiver and
child reports were used to form our assess-
ments of supportive parenting and parental
control. Two of the four subscales comprising
the supportive parenting measure, however, are
based solely on child reports because care-
givers did not report on these behaviors.
Violent delinquency. This construct was
measured using child self-reports on eight
items from the conduct disorder section of the
Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children,
Version 4 (DISC-IV; American Psychiatric
Association, 1994). The items asked about bul-
lying, initiating fights, being physically cruel
to people, using a weapon, being physically
cruel to animals, stealing with confrontation,
setting fires, and destroying property. At wave
1, the respondents indicated whether they had
ever engaged in each behavior; at wave 2 they
reported whether they had done so during the
preceding year. Coefficient alpha for the in-
strument was approximately .70 at both waves.
Given the skew and the non-negative, integer
nature of this count measure, we used negative
binomial regression models in all analyses pre-
dicting violent delinquency.
Discrimination. The target children com-
pleted 13 items from the Schedule of Racist
Events (Landrine and Klonoff 1996). This in-
strument has strong psychometric properties
and has been used extensively in studies of
African Americans of all ages, including teens
(Klonoff and Landrine 1999). The items assess
the frequency (1 = never, 4 = several times)
with which various discriminatory events have
been experienced. For example, the scale asks,
“How often has someone yelled a racial slur or
racial insult at you just because you are African
American?”; “How often have the police has-
sled you just because you are African
American?”; and “How often has someone
threatened you physically just because you are
African American?” Other items focused on
disrespectful treatment by sales clerks, false
accusations by authority figures, and exclusion
from social activities because of being African
American. Coefficient alpha for the scale was
above .82 at both waves.
The Iowa children reported more discrimi-
nation than those living in Georgia. The mean
scores on the Schedule of Racist Events were
22.8 and 19.7 for Iowa and Georgia, respec-
tively. The t-test for equality of means showed
this difference to be significant at the .01 lev-
el. Most of the Iowa children resided in large-
ly white communities, whereas many of the
Georgia families lived in largely black com-
munities. This difference in exposure to white
people probably accounts for the regional dif-
ference in perceived discrimination. It should
be noted, however, that neither controlling for
the proportion of black residents in each of the
block group areas nor including a dummy vari-
able for state in our study had an effect on the
results presented below.
The regional difference in perceived dis-
crimination indicates that ethnic/racial dis-
crimination is more prevalent in some commu-
nities than others. If this is true, children living
in the same neighborhood should report simi-
lar levels of discrimination, and there should be
a correlation between child and caretaker re-
ports of discrimination within the same com-
munity. Recently, Simons and associates
(2002) reported that these associations were
evident in the present sample, a finding that
supports the validity of our discrimination
Supportive parenting. Various parenting
scales were summed to form a composite mea-
sure of supportive parenting. The target chil-
dren in the study reported on the extent to
which their primary caregiver displays warmth
and affection and engages in harsh disciplinary
practices. Both caregivers and children com-
pleted scales designed to assess the extent to
which the caregiver provides reasons for rules
and decisions and engages in problem solving
with their child. The items for the various
scales were adapted from instruments devel-
oped for the Iowa Youth and Families Project
(IYFP) (Conger et al. 1992; Conger and Elder
1994). These measures have been shown to
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have high validity and reliability. For example,
analyses from IYFP have shown that parent re-
ports on these instruments correlate with child
reports and with observer ratings (Conger et al.
1992; Simons et al. 1996), and they predict var-
ious dimensions of child behavior across a sev-
eral-year period (Simons et al. 1998, 2001).
Focus group feedback prior to data collection
indicated that these items are meaningful to
African American parents and capture what
they consider to be the important dimensions
of effective parenting, and research found an
association between these parenting measures
and both delinquency (Simons et al. 2003) and
depression (Simons et al. 2002).
The target children used eight items to re-
port on their parent’s warmth/affection (e.g.,
“How often during the past 12 months did your
mom tell you she loves you?”; “How often dur-
ing the past 12 months did your mom let you
know she understands the way you feel about
things?”) The scale had an alpha of .90.
Coefficient alpha was .75 for the 14 items used
to assess harsh parenting (e.g., “How often
does your mother insult or swear at you?”;
“How often does your mother slap or hit
you?”). The response format for this scale, as
well as the others described below, ranged from
1 (never) to 4 (always).
As noted, both child and caregiver reports
were used to generate the reasoning and prob-
lem-solving scales. The instruments used for
the primary caregivers were reworded for the
children. For each of these measures, the care-
giver and child reports were first converted to
z-scores and then summed to form a composite
measure. Five items were used to assess the ex-
tent to which caregivers provide reasons or ex-
planations for the decisions that they make re-
garding their children (e.g., “How often do you
explain to your child the reasons for your deci-
sions?”; “When your child doesn’t know why
you make certain rules, how often do you ex-
plain the reason?”). Coefficient alpha for the
reasons scale was .78 for parents and .80 for
the children. Four questions asked about prob-
lem solving (e.g., “When you and your child
have a problem, how often can the two of you
figure out how to deal with it?”). Coefficient
alpha for this scale was .73 for caregivers and
.60 for children.
Finally, a composite measure of supportive
parenting was calculated in three steps. First,
we recoded the harsh parenting measure so that
higher scores indicated the absence of harsh
parenting. We then standardized each of the
parenting scales. These standardized measures
of warmth/affection, reasons, problem solving,
and eschewing harsh parenting were then
summed to form a supportive parenting scale.
Cronbach’s alpha for this composite measure
was .73.
Anger. Our measure of anger was construct-
ed with four items from the DISC-IV. The
items focus on how often the respondent loses
his or her temper, feels grouchy or annoyed,
gets mad, or feels unfairly treated. The re-
sponse format for the items ranged from 0 (less
than once per week) to 3 (nearly every day).
Coefficient alpha was approximately .65 at
both waves.
Hostile view of relationships. According to
Dodge (1980, 1986), hostile views of relation-
ships are biased perspectives that lead children
to attribute malevolent motives to others and to
assume that an aggressive, belligerent attitude
is necessary to avoid exploitation. A nine-item
scale was developed for the present study to as-
sess this construct. The items focus on the ex-
tent to which respondents believe that people
are untrustworthy and exploitive (e.g., “You
have often been lied to”; “When people are
friendly, they usually want something from
you”) and that aggressive actions are therefore
necessary and legitimate in order to defend
oneself (e.g., “People will take advantage of
you if you don’t let them know how tough you
are”; “Sometimes you need to threaten people
in order to get them to treat you fairly”).
Response format for these items ranged from
(1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly agree.
Coefficient alpha for the hostile views of rela-
tionships scale was above .70 at both waves.
Control variables. Several variables were in-
cluded as controls. First, we included a mea-
sure of parental control. Although this dimen-
sion of parenting was not expected to moderate
the association between discrimination and vi-
olent delinquency, it was likely to be related to
delinquency and was therefore included as a
control. The caregiver and child used 13 items
to report on parental control (e.g., “How often
do you know who your child is with when
he/she is away from home?”; “Once you have
decided on a type of discipline, how often can
your child get out of it?”). Coefficient alpha
was approximately .80 for both caregivers and
children. Parent and child reports were
summed to form a composite measure of this
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Primary caregivers and secondary caregivers
(where appropriate) reported the amount of
money that they had earned during the previ-
ous year from employment, child support, gov-
ernment payments, and so forth. We summed
these measures to generate a measure of
household income.
Finally, we included a measure of communi-
ty crime, as this variable was likely to be relat-
ed to both discrimination and violent delin-
quency. Target children completed a six-item
community crime scale, and primary care-
givers completed a four-item scale adapted
from instruments developed for the Project on
Human Development in Chicago Neighbor-
hoods (PHDCN; see Sampson, Raudenbush,
and Earls 1997). The scale asked the child and
primary caregiver to report how often (1 = nev-
er, 3 = often) various criminal acts occur with-
in their community. The instrument included
behaviors such as fighting with weapons, rob-
bery, and gang violence. Coefficient alpha for
the wave 2 scale was .71 for children and .88
for caregivers. These two scales were first stan-
dardized, in order to give the scales equal
weight, and then summed to form a composite
measure of community crime.
The majority of target boys reported that
they had experienced racial discrimination. For
example, 67 percent reported that someone had
insulted them because they were African
American, and 46 percent indicated that they
had experienced racial slurs. Forty-three per-
cent stated that they had been suspected of do-
ing something wrong because they were
African American. Thirty-three percent report-
ed that they had been excluded from an activi-
ty, and 18 percent indicated that they had been
threatened with physical harm because they
were African American. Many of the respon-
dents reported that their friends and family had
been victims of racial discrimination. Fifty-
four percent reported that close friends had
been treated unfairly because they were
African American, and 48 percent reported that
family members had received such treatment.
At wave 2, more than half of the boys re-
ported that during the preceding year they had
engaged in at least one act of violence. The
most frequently reported behavior was fight-
ing. For example, 39 percent had been in a
fight, and 11 percent had hurt someone badly
in a fight. Ten percent had bullied someone
smaller, 5 percent had destroyed the property
of others, 4 percent had been physically cruel
to animals, 3 percent had used a weapon
against someone, 2 percent had been physical-
ly cruel to people, and 1 percent had stolen
with confrontation. Because of such behavior,
44 percent had been suspended from school,
and 11 percent had been in trouble with the po-
Table 1 presents the correlation matrix for
the study variables. As expected, Table 1
shows that discrimination is positively associ-
ated with violent delinquency, whereas sup-
portive parenting and parental control are in-
versely related with this variable. Anger and
hostile view exhibit moderate correlations
with violent delinquency, discrimination, and
each other. Community crime is significantly
correlated with violent delinquency as well as
with one of the parenting measures; we there-
fore consider it in subsequent multivariate
analyses. In contrast, household income is not
significantly associated with any of the theo-
TABLE 1. Correlation Matrix for Study Variables
Variables .01 .02 .03 .04 .05 .06 .07 .08 .09
1. Violent delinquency
2. Violent delinquency
.25** .
3. Household income
–.06 .04 .
4. Community crime
.10* .10 –.16** .
5. Discrimination
.32** .25** .01 .16** .
6. Parental control
–.13* –.07 –.07 –.13* –.04 .
7. Supportive
0. parenting
–.28** –.18** .07 .04 –.13* .05 .
8. Anger
.48** .14** .10 .02 .23** –.22** .06 .
9. Hostile view
.18** .11* .02 .09 .32** –.19** .14** .15** .
Mean 1.92 1.55 29,017 –.13 7.75 –.13 .02 4.08 –.33
Standard deviation 2.65 2.62 21,775 1.52 7.34 1.60 3.31 3.37 2.87
* p < .05; ** p < .01 (two–tailed tests)
Note: n = 332.
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retical variables, so we do not include it in our
subsequent analyses.
Before discussing the results of our multi-
variate analyses, several features of our analy-
ses should be noted. Given that violent delin-
quency is a count variable with the concomi-
tant skewed distribution and overdispersion,
we use negative binomial regression to predict
this outcome. In addition, we capitalize on our
longitudinal data in two ways. First, we esti-
mate autoregressive models to capture the lon-
gitudinal link between the constructs and at-
tenuate the risk of endogenous bias. That is, for
each outcome we estimate the change from
wave 1 to wave 2 by controlling for the youths’
wave 1 score on the outcome being examined.
Second, we estimate each equation in two
forms. In the first, we use wave 2 measures of
our theoretical constructs. We take this ap-
proach because we expect the impact of dis-
crimination and parenting on child adjustment
to be concurrent. It is recent exposure to dis-
crimination and supportive parenting, rather
than experiences that occurred two years earli-
er, that we expect to influence the child’s cur-
rent involvement in violent delinquency. Our
second approach involves the use of change
scores. Increases in discrimination and in-
creases in supportive parenting are substituted
for the time 2 assessments of these variables.
Thus, in addition to investigating the concur-
rent impact of discrimination and supportive
parenting, we examined the impact of increas-
es in these variables between waves. The
change scores were computed by the simple
arithmetic process of subtracting the wave 1
scores from their wave 2 counterparts.
All of the independent variables were stan-
dardized prior to entering them into the mod-
els. Therefore, we present the unstandardized
betas, which can be interpreted as influence of
a standard deviation increase in the predictor.
Finally, preliminary analyses revealed that nei-
ther household income nor community crime
were significantly associated with the various
child adjustment outcomes we examine. Thus,
we reestimated the models without these mea-
sures. Likelihood-ratio tests indicated that ex-
cluding household income and community
crime did not deteriorate the model fit. Thus, in
the interest of parsimony, we dropped these in-
consequential variables and present the re-
duced model. On the other hand, parental con-
trol is incorporated in all of the models.
Although the effect of parental control fails to
achieve statistical significance in most of the
models, including this variable makes a signif-
icant incremental contribution to the explained
The Moderating Effects of Supportive
Table 2 displays the results of a series of
negative binomial regressions assessing the
change in violent delinquency. The first two
models display the effects of discrimination
and supportive involvement on the change in
violent delinquency, holding parental control
constant. (Models 3 and 4 in this table will be
discussed in the next section.) These models
show that discrimination, whether one uses the
TABLE 2. Violent Delinquency
Regressed on Violent Delinquency
, Discrimination, Supportive
Parenting, Anger, and Hostile View
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4
Independent Variables .0b%
Violent delinquency
.05 5.4 .13*** 14.3 .05 4.8 .11*** 11.1
.37** 44.2 .24** 27.1
Supportive parenting
–.30* –25.8 –.17* –15.4
Parental control
–.13 –12.3 –.14 –12.7 –.11 –10.6 –.14* –12.5
.56*** 75.4 .46*** 58.8
Hostile view
.04 4.3 .15* 15.7
Increase discrimination
T2 – T1
.19* 20.4 .05 4.8
Increase supportive parenting
T2 – T1
–.30*** –25.6 –.27** –23.6
Constant .46*** .35*** .31*** .19**
LR test of = 0 280.60 251.58 159.47 189.82
* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001 (two-tailed tests)
Note: n = 332.
The value reported in this column is the percent change in the expected count of violent delinquency for a unit in-
crease in the independent variable.
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time 2 assessment (model 1) or change from
wave 1 to wave 2 (model 2), predicts increased
involvement in violent delinquency. A (stan-
dardized) unit increase in discrimination aug-
ments the expected count of violent delinquen-
cy by more than 44 percent and 20 percent for
the two models, respectively. The same pattern
is evident for supportive parenting, where the
predicted change in violent delinquency is
roughly –26 percent for both models 1 and 2.
Conversely, supportive parenting has a signifi-
cant inverse relationship with violent delin-
quency, with a standardized unit increase in
supportive parenting decreasing the expected
count of violent delinquency by more than 25
percent, net of other factors (p < .001).
The first two models in Table 3 display the
moderating effects of supportive parenting on
the association between discrimination and vi-
olent delinquency. (The remaining models in
this table will be discussed in the next section.)
The interaction term incorporated in these
models was formed, following Aiken and West
(1991), by mean centering each of the vari-
ables, multiplying them together, and then
standardizing the product term. Model 1 of
Table 3 adds the interaction term between sup-
portive parenting (T2) and discrimination (T2),
and model 2 includes the interaction between
the increase in supportive parenting and the in-
crease in discrimination. The interaction terms
in both models are statistically significant and
in the predicted direction (negative), thereby
indicating that supportive parenting buffers the
effect of discrimination on violence. The inter-
action in model 1 reveals that a standardized
unit increase in supportive parenting is associ-
ated with a 14 percent decrease in the expect-
ed count of violent delinquency, whereas the
interaction between the change measures in
model 2 shows that a standard deviation in-
crease in the change in supportive parenting
decreases violent delinquency by approximate-
ly 11 percent. Further, in both models the ad-
dition of the interaction term produced a small
but statistically significant improvement in
model fit.
We graphed these interaction terms to facil-
itate interpretation of their effect. Figure 1 de-
picts the interaction between supportive par-
enting and discrimination from model 1 of
Table 3. Consistent with the hypothesis that
supportive parenting buffers the impact of dis-
crimination on violent delinquency, it shows
that the effect of discrimination on violence is
less for boys with high supportive parenting.
Although not shown due to space constraints,
the graph of the interaction from model 2
showed a similar pattern.
The Mediating Effects of Anger and Hostile
View of Relationships
Having found confirmation for our hypothe-
sis that supportive parenting diminishes the as-
sociation between discrimination and violent
delinquency, the next step was to test our hy-
potheses regarding the mechanisms by which
this moderation was accomplished. We posited
TABLE 3. Regressions Examining the Interaction of Discrimination with Supportive Parenting
Dependent Variables Violent Delinquency
Hostile View
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
Model 5
Model 6
Independent Variables bb bb bb
Violent delinquency
.05 .13***
.08 .18**
Hostile view
.26*** .32***
.36*** .19*** .30***
Supportive parenting
–.29*** –.22*** –.14*
Parental control
–.04 –.13 .10 .13† .02 .06
Discrimination supportive parenting
–.12* –.09** –.08*
Increase discrimination
T2 – T1
.18* .14** .11*
Increase supportive parenting
T2 – T1
–.26** –.17** –.09†
Increase discrimination
increase supportive parenting
T2 – T1
–.10* –.11* –.07†
Constant .48*** .34*** 3.89*** 3.43*** .32*** .29**
LR test of = 0 280.60 288.16 Adj. R
.16 .09 .20 .15
p < .07; * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001 (two-tailed tests)
Note: n = 332.
These results are based on negative binomial regressions of violent delinquency on the predictors.
These results are based on ordinary least squares regressions.
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that supportive parenting achieved its effect
through its impact on the mediators of the as-
sociation between discrimination and violent
delinquency: anger and hostile view of rela-
To establish a mediating effect, we first esti-
mated the effect of discrimination on change in
anger and hostile view. The results of these
analyses (not shown)
revealed that discrimina-
tion, whether operationalized as discrimination
(T2) or the change in discrimination, predicts
increases in both anger and hostile view of re-
lationships. The effect of the two discrimina-
tion measures on anger is .22 and .12, respec-
tively, and their impact on hostile view of rela-
tionships is .27 and .12, respectively. Paren-
thetically, supportive parenting is associated
with decreased anger and hostile view of rela-
Having established that discrimination in-
creases anger and a hostile view of relation-
ships, we added anger and hostile view of rela-
tionships to the models predicting violent
delinquency in order to gauge whether dis-
crimination increases violent delinquency in
part by augmenting negative emotions and at-
titudes. The negative binomial regressions pre-
sented in models 3 and 4 of Table 2 indicate
that much of the effect of discrimination on vi-
olent delinquency is indirect through anger and
hostile view of relationships. Comparing the
coefficient for discrimination from model 3
with the coefficient from model 1, we can see
that adding anger and hostile view of relation-
ships reduces the effect of discrimination (T2)
by roughly 36 percent (from b = .373 to b =
.239). The mediation effect is even stronger in
model 4. Anger and hostile view of relation-
ships attenuate the impact of the increase in
discrimination on the change in violence by
more than 75 percent (from b = .194 to b =
.048) and renders the coefficient between the
two insignificant.
It should be noted that we investigated the
extent to which other negative emotions, such
as depression and anxiety, mediate the impact
of discrimination on violence. Simons and as-
sociates (2003), for example, found that de-
pression mediated a small portion of the asso-
ciation between discrimination and general
delinquency. In our analyses, however, anger
was the only emotion with a mediational ef-
fect. Thus, while depression may mediate part
of the effect of discrimination on general
delinquency, anger appears to be the negative
emotion that links discrimination to violent
After establishing that anger and a hostile
view of relationships mediate the effect of dis-
crimination on violent delinquency, the next
step was to examine the extent to which sup-
portive parenting achieves its moderating ef-
fect through its influence on these mediational
processes. First, we tested the hypothesis that
FIGURE 1. The Association between Discrimination and Violent Delinquency among Boys Who Are
High, Medium, and Low in Supportive Parenting
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supportive parenting reduces the probability
that discrimination will result in either anger or
a hostile view of relationships. The results of
these analyses are presented in models 3
through 6 of Table 3. Models 3 and 4 show that
the interaction between discrimination and
supportive parenting is negative and signifi-
cant, regardless of whether one uses time 2
measures of the variables or change scores to
form the interaction terms. The same is true re-
garding hostile view of relationships, as shown
in models 5 and 6. These results are consistent
with the hypothesis that supportive parenting
decreases the chances that discrimination will
foster increased anger or a more hostile view of
relationships. Although not shown in the inter-
est of parsimony, graphs of these interactions
corroborated this interpretation.
Finally, Table 4 tests the hypothesis that sup-
portive parenting reduces the probability that
anger and a hostile view of relationships will
lead to violent delinquency. The main effects
for increases in anger and hostile view are pos-
itive and significant, with standardized unit in-
creases in these two variables augmenting the
expected count of violent delinquency by
roughly 75 percent and 4 percent, respectively,
in model 1, and 65 percent and 12 percent in
model 2. Importantly, given the hypothesis be-
ing tested, both in model 1, which uses time 2
measures of the predictors, and in model 2,
which utilizes change scores, the interaction
terms formed by multiplying anger and hostile
view of relationships by supportive parenting
are negative and significant. In model 1, the
positive slope between anger and violent delin-
quency is diminished by roughly 11 percent for
each standard deviation increase in supportive
parenting. Analogously, the slope for hostile
view is reduced by almost 14 percent for each
standardized unit increase in supportive par-
enting. Comparable moderator effects are evi-
dent for model 2.
Together, the findings from Tables 3 and 4
suggest that there are two avenues whereby
supportive parenting reduces the probability
that discrimination will lead to violence. First,
it decreases the chances that discrimination
will lead to anger and a hostile view of rela-
tionships; second, it lowers the risk that anger
or a hostile view of relationships, when they
develop, will result in violence.
Past research, whether based on self-report
data or official statistics, indicates that the in-
cidence of criminal behavior is much higher
among African American males than among
European American males. The difference is
especially pronounced with regard to violent
crime. Contemporary theories of delinquency
posit a set of conditions (e.g., ineffective par-
enting, lack of self-control, weak social bonds,
limited economic opportunity, violent subcul-
ture) that serve to increase the probability of
criminal involvement regardless of race or eth-
nicity. Recently, however, some developmental
psychologists have warned against the dangers
of a “one model fits all” approach to studying
children of color (Garcia-Coll et al. 1996;
Hughes et al. 1993; McLoyd 1990; Spencer
1990). They stress the importance of consider-
ing factors unique to the everyday lives of the
cultural group that is the focus of study. This
includes events that pose threats to adjustment
such as racism, discrimination, and prejudice.
To the extent that criminological theory has
considered racial/ethnic discrimination, the fo-
cus has been upon access to educational and
occupational opportunity. Racial/ethnic dis-
crimination is seen as limiting educational and
occupational prospects, which, in turn, in-
creases temptation to use illegal avenues to
achieve economic success. This perspective is
an example of a “one model fits all” explana-
tion, as blocked opportunities are assumed to
cause crime among all groups. African
Americans engage in more crime, according to
this viewpoint, because they experience higher
levels of blocked opportunities. While research
has provided a modicum of support for this
perspective (Anderson 1990; Sullivan 1989;
Sampson and Lauritsen 1994; Walker et al.
2000), some researchers have begun to investi-
gate a different model of the effects of dis-
Using a social psychological rather than a
structural perspective, they have examined the
possibility that racial/ethnic discrimination
fosters negative emotions and attitudes that di-
rectly increase a child’s propensity for delin-
quent behavior. Consistent with this idea, a
rather strong association has been found be-
tween perceived discrimination and engaging
in delinquent behavior (DuBois et al. 2002;
McCord and Ensminger 1997, 2002; Simons et
al. 2003). Further, the evidence suggests that
the causal priority underlying this relationship
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is from discrimination to delinquency, rather
than the reverse (Simons et al. 2003). Our find-
ings provide further support for this idea, as ei-
ther exposure to high levels of discrimination
or experiencing an increase in discrimination
predict an escalation in violent delinquency.
Further, consistent with the findings reported
by Simons et al. (2003), we found that feelings
of anger and development of a hostile view of
relationships mediated much of the association
between discrimination and violence.
Such findings naturally lead to the question:
Are there things that caretakers might do to
lower the chances that children of color will re-
spond to discrimination with violence? The
present study was primarily concerned with
testing the idea that parental support (viz., dis-
playing warmth and affection, providing rea-
sons for decisions, helping solve problems, and
avoiding hostility and rejection) might lower
the chances that children of color will respond
to discrimination with violence. Our results in-
dicated that this indeed is the case. Our analy-
ses consistently showed that parental support
moderates the association between discrimina-
tion and violent delinquency.
Further, our findings suggest that supportive
parenting achieves its protective effect in two
ways. First, it decreases the chances that dis-
crimination will lead to either anger or a hos-
tile view of relationships. We expect that this
phenomenon occurs because warm and sup-
portive parents are able to soothe the feelings
of frustration and anger produced by racist
treatment, whereas the love and respect provid-
ed by such parents provides a model of rela-
tionships that may counter the cynical view
fostered by acts of discrimination.
Although our results indicate that supportive
parenting lessens the chance that discrimina-
tion will cause a child to develop anger or a
hostile view of relationships, discrimination
continued to have a main effect on these two
outcomes even after taking supportive parent-
ing into account. Thus, while supportive par-
enting may reduce feelings of anger and com-
mitment to a hostile view of relationships,
African American children are still at risk for
experiencing these developmental outcomes to
some degree. This fact underscores the impor-
tance of the second avenue whereby our find-
ings suggest that supportive parenting moder-
ates the relationships between discrimination
and violence. We found that supportive parent-
ing reduces the probability that anger or a hos-
tile view of relationships will result in violent
behavior. It is not clear how supportive parent-
ing accomplishes this reduction, but we expect
that supportive parents, through their explana-
tions, reasoning, and problem solving, help
their children to identify constructive avenues
for venting their anger and frustration and to
see the self-destructive consequences of ex-
pressing their anger through violence and anti-
TABLE 4. Negative Binomial Regressions Examining the Moderating Effect of Supportive Parenting
on the Relationship between Negative Emotions and Violent Delinquency
Model 1 Model 2
Independent Variables b%
Violent delinquency
.12 12.7 .47*** 60.4
.24** 27.1
Supportive parenting
–.16* –15.1
Parental control
–.11** –10.6 –.14* –13.1
.55*** 74.5
Hostile view
.04 4.1
Anger supportive parenting
–.12* –11.4
Hostile view supportive parenting
–.15* –13.7
Increase discrimination
T2 – T1
.05 4.8
Increase supportive parenting
T2 – T1
–.26** –22.8
Increase anger
T2 – T1
.50*** 64.6
Increase hostile view
T2 – T1
.12* 12.1
Increase anger increase supportive parenting
–.14*** 12.8
Increase hostile view increase supportive parenting
–.15* –14.2
LR test of = 0 149.94*** 111.62***
* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001 (two-tailed tests)
Note: n = 332.
The value reported in this column is the percent change in the expected count of violent delinquency for a unit in-
crease in the predictor.
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social behavior. Similarly, while the parent may
concede to the child that some individuals are
untrustworthy and have bad intentions, the par-
ent may also help the child to see that there are
constructive ways of circumventing the dan-
gers posed by such persons and that aggression
is rarely the answer to such problems. In order
to test these ideas, we need data on the racial
socialization provided by parents. This infor-
mation will be obtained in the next wave of da-
ta collection.
We believe it is important to recognize that
parental behavior does not occur in a vacuum.
Research indicates that the stress associated
with economic hardship (Conger et al. 1992) or
with being a single parent (Simons et al. 1996)
increases the chances of irritable, explosive
parenting. Exposure to discrimination may
well be another stressor that has a disruptive ef-
fect on parenting. Thus, while our findings un-
derscore the importance of supportive parent-
ing, the pressures and strains inherent in the
everyday lives of many African American par-
ents reduce the probability that such parenting
will occur.
Although the current study has several
strengths, it also suffers from several limita-
tions. Two weaknesses in particular need to be
mentioned. First, it could be argued that our
measure of discrimination only assessed per-
ceptions of discrimination and that these per-
ceptions may be a reflection of the child’s tem-
perament or emotional state rather than of re-
ality. For example, angry and aggressive chil-
dren, or those with a hostile view of relation-
ships, may be predisposed to interpret an aver-
sive action by another as motivated by racism.
While we cannot rule out this possibility, re-
cent research indicates that people’s percep-
tions of personal and group discrimination are
generally quite accurate (Taylor, Wright, and
Porter 1994). Indeed, the evidence suggests
that individuals of color are most apt to make
attributions of racism when the stimulus is un-
ambiguous (Ruggiero and Taylor 1995). Thus,
while people’s perceptions of events are some-
times tainted by their attitudes or emotions, as-
sessments of discrimination, in large measure,
appear to be valid reports of racist incidents.
A final limitation of our study is that we did
not have measures of the lessons that parents
teach their children regarding racism and dis-
crimination. Future studies need to go beyond
the investigation of parenting practices that are
common to all families and investigate the spe-
cific strategies that parents of color employ to
prepare their children to cope with an occa-
sionally racist environment. African American
children vary in terms of what their parents
teach them about such topics as white people,
tactics for addressing discrimination, and the
probability of success in a racist society
(Hughes and Chen 1999; Stevenson 1997).
Presumably, some messages increase a child’s
resolve and positive striving in the face of dis-
crimination, whereas other communications
enhance the probability that discrimination
will lead to anger, cynicism, and violence. As
we have already noted, we are obtaining infor-
mation regarding racial socialization as part of
the current wave of data collection for our pro-
ject. Using these data, we will be able to inves-
tigate the extent to which various racial social-
ization practices moderate the association be-
tween discrimination and violence.
1. We were concerned that our measures of
hostile view of relationships, discrimina-
tion, and anger might not be distinct.
However, a factor analysis of the items for
the scales resulted in a clustering of the
items for each of the scales. In addition,
there was only a modest zero-order correla-
tion between the scales (see Table 1). All of
this suggests that the measures are distinct.
2. Due primarily to refusals to report wages,
13 percent of the sample had missing values
for household income. Using the expecta-
tion-maximization procedure, the following
variables were utilized (if available) to im-
pute missing values: wages of all household
members, unmet material needs, inability to
“make ends meet,” financial cutbacks/ad-
justments, education level, negative finan-
cial life events, household size, and dual
earner household status.
3. This method of utilizing change scores was
used because incorporating both time 1 and
time 2 measures leads to unacceptable lev-
els of multicollinearity in our estimates.
Several variance inflation factors (VIFs)
rose above 3.0 when utilizing both time 1
and time 2 estimates. In contrast, for all of
the models presented, not one of the VIFs
was greater than 2.0.
4. The correlation between the time 1 and time
2 measures of discrimination was .44 (p <
.001), and the stability correlation between
the measures of supportive parenting was
.38 (p < .001).
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5. It should be noted that we also ran these
models with supportive parenting broken
into its component parts. The results indi-
cated that all four components—warmth,
reasoning, problem solving, and hostility
(reverse coded)—significantly reduced the
effect of discrimination on violent delin-
6. These results are available upon request.
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Ronald L. Simons is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Sociology and research fel-
low in the Institute for Behavioral Research at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on the man-
ner in which community factors, family interaction, and peer processes combine to influence psychological
adjustment and antisocial behavior across the life course.
Leslie Gordon Simons is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Child and Family Development at
the University of Georgia. Her research investigates the effects of family structure, parenting practices, com-
munity processes, and religion on adolescent outcomes such as conduct problems, risky sex, and depres-
Callie Harbin Burt is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Georgia.
Her research interests include criminological theory, research methodologies, and links between family and
community processes and crime.
Holli Drummond is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Western Kentucky University.
Her research focuses on explaining variation in the social psychological processes leading to delinquency
and how these processes are shaped by family, peers, school, and community.
Eric A. Stewart is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the
University of Missouri, St. Louis. He is also a member of the National Consortium on Violence Research.
His research interests include crime over the life course; the effect of neighborhood, school, and family
processes on adolescent development; and testing criminological theories.
Gene H. Brody is Regents Professor in the Department of Child and Family Development and Director of
the Center for Family Research at the University of Georgia. His research is concerned with the impact of
family and community processes on the development of externalizing and internalizing problems in chil-
dren and adolescents.
Frederick X. Gibbons is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University. His pri-
mary research focus is on the application of social psychology theory and principles to health behavior.
Carolyn Cutrona is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Institute for Social
and Behavioral Research at Iowa State University. Her research examines neighborhood characteristics,
stressful life events, and personal characteristics as predictors of mental health and relationship outcomes.
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1997. “Racial Differences in Physical and Men-
tal Health: Socioeconomic Status, Stress, and
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... In this study, we specifically explore the role of PED at school by teachers and peers on ethnic-minority youth positive adjustment (in terms of their self-esteem, self-efficacy, optimism and school integration) while considering peer and parental support as possible protective factors. It extends previous research [29][30][31][32] in five ways, namely by (a) specifically examining the role of PED in the context of school instead of focusing on the general living environment of minority youth in Germany; (b) focusing on different aspects of positive adjustment (self-esteem, self-efficacy, optimism and school integration); (c) including three psychological (self-esteem, self-efficacy and optimism) and one sociocultural (school integration) indicator of adjustment, while most studies with immigrants only focus on psychological outcomes [33]; (d) considering the distinct roles of two key relational contexts by simultaneously testing parental and peer support as buffering factors concerning the relation between PED and adjustment; and (e) by including both refugee youth and secondand third-generation youth of immigrant descent, thus allowing us to explore potential differences in the risk and protective roles of PED and social support for their adjustment. ...
... Parental support has also been claimed as a protective factor for youth by fostering a closer bond between the parent and the child and consequently allowing for more open communication within the parent-child relationship and creating a sense of security for the child [57]. Indeed, studies of African American adolescents revealed supportive parental behavior as a buffer in the associations between perceived discrimination and behavior conduct problems and substance use [29,32]. Additionally, nurturing-involved parenting that includes emotional support, instrumental assistance and communication about potential areas of concern between parents and their children revealed to weaken the association between perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms. ...
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Applying a risk and protection perspective, this study paid special attention to the protective roles of parental and peer support in the face of perceived ethnic discrimination (PED) at school. Responding to the inconsistent findings of previous research, the survey study provides greater clarity regarding the interactions between PED at school, social support and positive adjustment (self-esteem, self-efficacy, optimism and school integration). The sample comprised 104 ethnic-minority youth (Mage = 17.73, SD = 3.29, 61% female), including refugee youth (n = 55) and second- and third-generation youth of immigrant descent (n = 49). Structural equation models across the whole sample confirmed peer support as a significant moderator, indicating that ethnic-minority youth who received low peer support were less optimistic when facing PED. In multi-group models, we tested whether results differ across refugee youth and youth of immigrant descent. Results revealed between-group differences concerning the moderating roles of parental and peer support: For youth of immigrant descent, while more PED was associated with lower self-esteem when receiving low parental support, we found a positive association between PED and optimism when receiving high parental support. Based on the findings that refugee youth were shown to be less optimistic when obtaining low peer support, the main interaction effect for peer support on optimism seemed to be driven by refugee youth. The results of our cross-sectional study highlight the importance of identifying specific social support factors for specific adjustment outcomes and also the importance of differentiating between minority groups. Further, the findings offer practical implications for the educational sector in terms of programs focusing on the development of peer-support networks to especially promote refugee youth resilience and resettlement in Germany.
... The rejection-identification model postulated that negative consequences of racial discrimination on well-being can be slightly mitigated by identification with the minority group (Branscombe et al., 1999;Branscombe, 2002). Furthermore, according to the general stress theory, psychological and physical stress caused by racial discrimination can promote aggressionrelated conduct problems (Agnew, 1992(Agnew, , 2005Simons et al., 2003Simons et al., , 2006). An analysis of the socio-economic panel showed that people individuals with a Turkish migration background in Germany feel discriminated more often than other migrant groups (Igel et al., 2010). ...
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The following study considers correlates of the identification with the origin and host culture of German individuals with a Turkish migrant background. It examines how these two factors mediate the relationship between perceived discrimination, emotion regulation or psychological stress, and aggressive tendencies as the major dependent variable. For this purpose, the data of 229 people with Turkish migration background living in Germany was collected through an online survey. Findings depict that the identification with the Turkish (origin) and German (host) culture mediate the relationship between perceived discrimination and emotion regulation. The relationship between perceived discrimination and psychological stress is mediated by the identification with the German culture. The analysis shows that perceived discrimination is associated with a reduced identification with the German culture and with a high identification with the Turkish culture. Emotion regulation abilities are negatively related to perceived discrimination and identification with the Turkish culture. In contrary, the psychological stress level is positively related to perceived discrimination. The preparedness for aggressive behavior is also associated positively by psychological stress and negatively by emotion regulation abilities. The results are discussed against the background of the specific migration history and living conditions of Turkish immigrants in Germany.
... Juvenile arrest rates involving violent crimes (such as murder and robbery) tended to be much higher for African American youth than for White youth (Puzzanchera, 2019). For African American youth, perceived discrimination is contributory to delinquency and recidivism (Simons et al., 2003(Simons et al., , 2006, which inhibit rehabilitation after a violent offense (DuBois et al. 2002;McCord & Ensminger 1997Simons et al., 2003). Hence, an examination of violent delinquency among African American adolescents remains to be an important line of research and a necessary first step towards advancing prevention and intervention efforts. ...
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This study aims to compare the applicability of the Social Disorganization Theory, General Strain Theory, and Social Control Theory in the exploration of violent delinquency in Chicago’s Southside. The study participants included 546 adolescents in Chicago. Descriptive statistics, bivariate correlation, and multivariate regression analyses were conducted. Supporting the Social Disorganization Theory, affiliation with delinquent peers mediated the association between poor neighborhood conditions and delinquency. Supporting the General Strain Theory, emotional distress mediated the relationship between peer victimization and delinquency. Inconsistent with the Social Control Theory, religiosity did not buffer the relationship between feeling disconnected from parents and delinquency.
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Racial/ethnic discrimination is a commonplace experience for many adolescents of color, and an increasing number of studies over the past 25 years have sought to document discrimination and its consequences at this stage of the life course. The evidence is clear and convincing that racial/ethnic discrimination is harmful for adolescents’ socioemotional and behavioral well-being as well as their academic success. Discrimination measurement, however, poses a critical source of potential variation in the observed effect sizes capturing the associations between racial/ethnic discrimination and adolescents’ well-being. This meta-analysis integrated 1,804 effect sizes on 156,030 unique ethnically- and geographically-diverse adolescents (Mage = 14.44, SD = 2.27) from 379 studies that used 79 unique instruments to assess racial/ethnic discrimination. The meta-analysis focused on a host of measurement-related moderators, including the number of items, response scale and response dimensions, reliability, retrospective reference period, perpetrators, and initial target populations. Larger effect sizes were observed for instruments with more items and with non-dichotomously rated items. Perpetrator and retrospective reference period also emerged as key moderators, while measure reliability, response dimensions, and initial measurement development characteristics were not significant moderators. Findings provide key insights for the development of more precise, effective instruments to assess perceived racial/ethnic discrimination in adolescence.
Background: While much literature has focused on examining associations between neighbourhood characteristics and antisocial behaviour, little is known about the effect of perceptions of neighborhood disorder on emotions, mental health, and criminal justice contact. Aims: Our aim was to examine whether depressive symptoms mediate relations between perceived neighbourhood disorder, future criminal justice contact, and suicidal ideation. Methods: We grounded this research in the primary arguments of General Strain Theory. Data from structured self-reports by over 2,000 now adult participants in the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (CNLSY), offspring born to the women from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) were analyzed. Information on neighbourhood disorder and depressive symptoms were drawn from the 2012 wave of data collection and on offending and suicidal ideation from the next wave in 2014. Structured equation models were estimated to examine direct and indirect paths between neighbourhood disorder, depression, justice contact, and suicidal ideation. Results: Depressive symptoms were found to partially mediate the total direct effect of perceived neighbourhood disorder on future criminal justice contact, with the strength of this pathway varying across race and ethnicity. The association between perceived neighbourhood disorder and suicidal ideation was fully mediated by depressive symptoms. Conclusions and implications: Findings are consistent with an ecological stress framework for understanding the relationship between stressful living conditions, crime, and mental illness. Results suggest that in addition to neighbourhood improvements, ready access to mental health care within disordered communities may help to identify, as well as treat those suffering from suicidal ideation.
With this new practical guide, pediatricians and other child health professionals will learn to identify, evaluate, and treat children and families affected by trauma and adversity when they present at the office. Available for purchase at (NOTE: This book features a full text reading experience. Click a chapter title to access content.)
Objective Indirect exposure to racism experienced by a caregiver (ie, vicarious racism) is associated with poor outcomes for children, but mechanisms of vicarious racism transmission are poorly understood. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between experiences of racial discrimination and parenting among African American mothers, and to identify psychological mediators and moderators of this relationship. Method African American mothers (N=250) with young children (x̄ = 3.7 years-old) reported on perceived racial discrimination (Race-Related Events Scale), parenting (Parenting Stress Index, Parenting Styles and Dimensions Questionnaire), coping (Coping Strategies Index), and mental health (Stress Overload Scale, Beck Depression Inventory). We used multivariable linear regression to examine associations between perceived racial discrimination and parenting, and to test coping as a moderator of these relationships. We used ordinary least squares regression-based path analysis with bootstrapping to examine mediation by stress overload and depressive symptoms. Results Fifty-seven percent of women reported at least one experience of racial discrimination. Experiences of racial discrimination were associated with increased parenting stress (β=0.69, p=.02), and this relationship was mediated by stress overload (95% CI 0.35, 1.09) and depressive symptoms (95% CI 0.27, 1.18). Racial discrimination was not associated with parenting styles, and coping strategies largely did not moderate the relationships examined. Conclusion Racial discrimination has harmful intergenerational effects on African American children and families. Systemic-level interventions are needed, including adoption of policies to promote racial justice, and eliminate structural racism in the United States. Future research on coping strategies specific to racism-related stress are needed to inform approaches to intervention.
Introduction: This study partially tests Agnew’s (2005, 2011) general theory of crime and delinquency, drawing out the differential roles of parenting, constraints, and motivations when comparing general delinquency trajectories and serious delinquency trajectories. Methods: Using data from a 7-year follow-up study of 927 Korean male adolescents, the study incorporates a group-based trajectory modeling to identify subgroups, each having a unique pattern of trajectories, respectively. Results: The models yielded 3 subgroups: Early onset & decreaser, Increaser & late peak, and Normative for general delinquency as well as Serious delinquent, Moderate delinquents, and Normative for serious delinquency. The results reveal that compared to Normative group, parenting styles were significant of both the Moderate and Serious delinquents groups for only serious delinquency even after controlling for constraints and motivations. The odds of belonging to both the Early-Onset & Decreaser and Increaser & Late Peak groups for general delinquency and the Moderate Delinquents group for serious delinquency were significantly higher for those who more frequently associated with delinquent peers. Depression was significant among members of the Early-Onset & Decreaser group, while school connectedness was significant among members of the Increaser & Late Peak group for general delinquency. There were no mediating role of constraints and motivations in the parent-delinquency prediction. Conclusions: intervention programs aimed at improving parenting skills can be developed to decrease the likelihood of delinquency.
Racial discrimination presents challenges for children of color, particularly with regard to their schooling. Experiences of rejection and unfairness because of one’s race can prompt students to disengage from academics. The expansive discrimination literature finds that such experiences are commonplace. So much so that researchers have begun asking a new question: does one need to experience discrimination first-hand to feel its consequences? The current study continues in this direction by examining school attitudes as a potential outcome of anticipated and vicarious discrimination. Data are from black and Hispanic adolescents in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Results indicate that anticipated discrimination has the strongest and most direct associations with attitudes among African Americans, particularly when the police represent the discrimination source. However, parents can neutralize the impact of anticipated discrimination if they encourage reading at high levels. Experienced and vicarious discrimination exhibit weaker effects. Overall, the results confirm that the consequences of interpersonal discrimination do not stop with the intended victims. Instead, there are ripple effects that can negatively impact the worldviews of racial minority adolescents without them ever personally experiencing discrimination.
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Previous research has showed that Chinese rural-to-urban migrant adolescents are at high risk for discrimination, negative emotions, and aggression. However, little is known about how discrimination, negative emotions, and aggression are interrelated and whether social support addressing the emotional needs of the adolescents would moderate the relationship of discrimination to aggression. This study attempts to fill these gaps. Based on prior research, it is proposed that perceived discrimination relates to reactive aggression by increasing negative emotions that foster aggressive responses to stressful events. Considering the central role that negative emotions may play, it is also hypothesized that socioemotional support provided by family, friends, and community mitigates the impact of perceived discrimination on reactive aggression by reducing negative emotions. The results obtained from the analysis of two-wave survey data collected from a probability sample of 470 migrant students aged 11–17 (46.17% female; mean age = 13.49) in China supported these hypotheses. The findings indicate that perceived discrimination fosters negative emotions, which in turn increase reactive aggression. Additionally, socioemotional support reduces the adverse impact of perceived discrimination on reactive aggression by weakening the link between perceived discrimination and negative emotions. Practical and policy implications of these findings are discussed.
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Focusing on the formation of ethnic self-identities during adolescence, this article examines the psychosocial adaptation of children of immigrants from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The data are drawn from a survey carried out in the San Diego and Miami metropolitan areas of over 5,000 children of immigrants attending the eighth and ninth grades in local schools. The sample is evenly split by gender and nativity (half are U.S. born, half foreign born). The results show major differences in their patterns of ethnic self-identification, both between and within groups from diverse national origins. Instead of a uniform assimilative path, we found segmented paths to identity formation. Detailed social portraits are sketched for each ethnic identity type. Multivariate analyses then explore the determinants of assimilative and dissimilative ethnic self-identities and of other aspects of psychosocial adaptation such as self-esteem, depressive affect, and parent-child conflict, controlling for gender, socioeconomic status, and national origin. The theoretical and practical implications of these results –especially the effects of acculturation, discrimination, location and ethnic density of schools, parental socialization and family context, upon the psychosocial adaptation of children of recent immigrants to the United States – are discussed.
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Analysts have long noted that some societies have much higher rates of criminal violence than others. The risk of being a victim or a perpetrator of violent crime varies considerably from one individual to another. Some ethnic and racial groups have been reported to have higher rates of violent offending and victimization than other groups in societies with ethnically and racially diverse populations. This series of essays explores the extent and causes of racial and ethnic differences in violent crime in the U.S. and several other contemporary societies.
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This study examines the social structural processes and arrangements related to racial group identification for a national sample of black American adults. We argue that primary socialization experiences, particularly parental messages concernings the meaning of being black, are important in shaping racial identity. The findings support this prediction; further, they suggest that adult relations with family, friends, and community are important in fostering a sense of group identity. Findings also suggest that integration into mainstream society, as reflected in interracial contact and adult socioeconomic attainment, is associated with less in-group attachment but more positive black group evaluation. Adult SES and interracial contact bolster black group evaluation. Collectively, these findings support a multidimensional conceptualization of black identity.
A century ago, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote: “Crime is a phenomenon of organized social life, and is the open rebellion of an individual against his social environment” (1899/1996: 235). Explaining crime among blacks in Philadelphia between 1835 and 1895, Du Bois noted their overrepresentation in the courts as well as prisons and was acknowledging the damage to society done by racial discrimination both before and after the Civil War. Enumerations of prison populations in 1904, 1910, and 1923 showed serious overrepresentation of blacks both among resident prisoners and among those committed during the years of enumeration (Reuter, 1927). The fact that rates were higher for population counts than for intakes showed that blacks not only were convicted relatively more frequently but that, also, they were given longer sentences. High crime rates among blacks are, of course, at least partly a function of the operation of the justice system and the way in which crimes and race are recorded. In many cases, white men have committed violence against blacks with impunity, thus not entering into any counts of violence. Although black recorded rates of violence exceeded the averages among whites, they did not rise to the levels of violence among Irish or Italian immigrants at particular times and places (Lane, 1997). Nevertheless, contemporary records indicate that violence among blacks, particularly among young black males, is an extremely serious phenomenon.
The psychological effects of living in a racially hostile context are multiple. African American adolescents who respond to racial intolerance with anger and depression are silenced and vulnerable to misinterpretation and misdiagnosis. Adolescents who believe the African American family has the responsibility of raising children to be aware of societal hostilities and cultural strengths are the focus of this article. Gender differences were found, and results suggest that beliefs in various types of racial socialization differentially contribute to positive psychological outcomes for adolescents. A cultural ecological framework is used to discuss the resilience and risk of anger expression.
General strain theory (GST) is usually tested by examining the effect of strain on crime. Researchers, however, have little guidance when it comes to selecting among the many hundreds of types of strain and have trouble explaining why only some of them are related to crime. This article builds on GST by describing the characteristics of strainful events and conditions that influence their relationship to crime. Strains are said to be most likely to result in crime when they (1) are seen as unjust, (2) are seen as high in magnitude, (3) are associated with low social control, and (4) create some pressure or incentive to engage in criminal coping. Drawing on these characteristics, it is predicted that some types of strain will not be related to crime, including types that have dominated the research on strain theory, and that others will be related to crime, including types that have been neglected by empirical researchers.
This article examines the relationship between racial discrimination and delinquency. Using longitudinal data collected on approximately 700 African American children, we begin by establishing an association between exposure to discrimination and delinquent behavior. Next, we use structural equation modeling to test various hypotheses regarding the emotional and cognitive factors that mediate this association. For boys, the association between discrimination and delinquency is mediated by feelings of anger and depression and by the belief that aggression is a necessary interpersonal tactic. The results are somewhat different for girls. Although anger and depression mediate part of the effect of discrimination on delinquency, discrimination continues to display a small but significant direct effect. The implications of these findings for criminological theory are discussed.