Adolescent Mental Health in Relation to Anti-Racism Critical Action

J Youth Adolesc. 2022 May;51(5):832-847. doi: 10.1007/s10964-022-01589-2. Epub 2022 Mar 9.


The relation between critical action and mental health in youth is unclear, despite theory suggesting that engagement in critical action may support adaptive mental health functioning for youth experiencing oppressive systems. The current study contributed to the literature in this understudied area by analyzing the relations between youth critical anti-racism action and their depressive symptoms and psychological well-being, as well as testing two potential moderators of these relations: parent critical motivation and community anti-racism. The study sample consisted of 430 13-to-17-year-old adolescents (M age = 15.3 years, 54% girls, 48% black and 52% white). The findings suggest that critical action is often associated with negative mental health outcomes; however, parent critical motivation and community anti-racism were protective in some instances and communal anti-racism action was more frequently linked to adaptive mental health outcomes than other forms of action. The findings underscore that both psychological risks and rewards are present for youth engaging in critical action for racial justice and highlight the importance of future research to identify malleable factors that are protective for these youth.

Keywords: Adolescence; Anti-racism; Critical action; Critical consciousness; Mental health; Youth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Motivation
  • Racism* / psychology
  • Social Justice