Racial/Ethnic Discrimination and Mental Health in Mexican-Origin Youths and Their Parents: Testing the "Linked Lives" Hypothesis

J Adolesc Health. 2018 Apr;62(4):480-487. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.10.010. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Purpose: Using a life course perspective, the present study tested the concept of "linked lives" applied to the problem of not only how racial/ethnic discrimination may be associated with poor mental health for the target of discrimination but also how discrimination may exacerbate the discrimination-distress link for others in the target's social network-in this case, the family.

Methods: The discrimination-distress link was investigated among 269 Mexican-origin adolescents and their parents both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. It was hypothesized that parents' discrimination experiences would adversely affect their adolescent children's mental health via a moderating effect on the target adolescent discrimination-distress link. The converse was also hypothesized for the target parents. Multilevel moderation analyses were conducted to test the moderating effect of parents' discrimination experiences on the youth discrimination-distress link. We also tested the moderating effect of youths' discrimination experiences on the parent discrimination-distress link.

Results: Parents' discrimination experiences significantly moderated the longitudinal association between youths' discrimination stress appraisals and mental health, such that the father's discrimination experiences exacerbated the youth discrimination-depression link. Youths' discrimination stress appraisals were not a significant moderator of the cross-sectional parent discrimination-mental health association.

Conclusions: Implications of these findings are discussed from a linked lives perspective, highlighting how fathers' discrimination experiences can adversely affect youths who are coping with discrimination, in terms of their mental health.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Life course; Linked lives; Mental health; Mexican-origin adolescents and parents; Racial/ethnic discrimination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology
  • Anxiety / ethnology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / psychology
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Racism / psychology*