Is resilience only skin deep?: rural African Americans' socioeconomic status-related risk and competence in preadolescence and psychological adjustment and allostatic load at age 19

Psychol Sci. 2013 Jul 1;24(7):1285-93. doi: 10.1177/0956797612471954. Epub 2013 May 30.


Many African American youth may develop high levels of allostatic load, a measure of physiological wear and tear on the body, by developing psychosocial competence under conditions of high risk related to socioeconomic status (SES). The current study was designed to test this hypothesis, which is based on John Henryism theory. In a representative sample of 489 African American youth living in the rural South, cumulative SES-related risks and teacher-reported competence were assessed at ages 11 to 13; depressive symptoms, externalizing behavior, and allostatic load were assessed at age 19. The data revealed that rural African American preadolescents who evinced high psychosocial competence under conditions of high cumulative SES-related risk displayed low levels of adjustment problems along with high allostatic load at age 19. These results suggest that, for many rural African Americans, resilience may indeed be only "skin deep."

Keywords: adolescent development; environmental effects; health; neuroendocrinology; socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • Allostasis / physiology*
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult