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Longitudinal Associations between Perceived Discrimination and Depression, Anxiety, and Academic Achievement in Latinx College Students

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Higher education institutions have increasingly sought to diversify the ethnic makeup of freshmen classes (Covarrubias, Herrmann, & Fryberg, 2016) and rates of Latinx college attendance have been rising (Hall, Nishina, & Lewis, 2017). However, despite comparable levels of earned-credits, Latinx

Higher education institutions have increasingly sought to diversify the ethnic makeup of freshmen classes (Covarrubias, Herrmann, & Fryberg, 2016) and rates of Latinx college attendance have been rising (Hall, Nishina, & Lewis, 2017). However, despite comparable levels of earned-credits, Latinx students have lower rates of college completion (Contreras & Contreras, 2015). One potential explanation may be disproportionate increases in stress, and in particular, discrimination experiences reported by Latinx students during the transition from high school to college (Hunyh & Fuligni, 2012). As such, the aim of the current study was to examine whether everyday discrimination in high school and college were associated with changes in adolescent well-being and academic adjustment over the college transition in a sample of Latinx adolescents. Study participants were 209 Latinx adolescents (85.1% Mexican descent, 62.1% 2nd generation; 35.6% male; Mage= 17.59) who completed questionnaire assessments during the spring or summer before entering college (T1) and again during the first semester of college (T2; 88.5% retention). In both high school and college, participants completed a modified version of the Everyday Discrimination Scale (T1 α=.88, T2 α=.89; Williams et al., 1997). Dependent variables included internalizing symptoms in college (depressive symptoms {α = .95}, anxiety symptoms {α = .88}, stress symptoms {α = .94}; DASS; Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995), and institutional records of college GPA. Correlation and regression analyses were conducted in SPSS 23 to examine associations between discrimination experiences (high school and college) and college internalizing symptoms and GPA, controlling for high school levels. Other covariates included immigrant generation status, sex, parent education (as a proxy for socioeconomic status), and whether the participant attended the focal higher education institution. Zero order correlations (Table 1) revealed that greater reports of discrimination in high school and college were associated with higher depressive symptoms, higher anxiety symptoms, higher stress, but not GPA in college (Table 1; all ps <.05). In multivariate analyses and after adjusting for covariates similar patterns emerged (Table 2). Greater reports of discrimination in college were associated with higher depressive symptoms (β = .18, p < .05), anxiety symptoms (β = .19, p <.05) and stress (β = .18, p <.05), but not GPA (β = -.04, ns). Everyday experiences of discrimination in high school were not significantly associated with college outcomes. In summary, our findings suggest that discrimination experiences among Latinx students in college, but not high school, are associated with increases in internalizing symptoms, including depression, anxiety and stress. Interestingly, discrimination experiences in high school and college were not associated with academic achievement in the first semester of college. Such findings suggest that higher education institutions should focus on global indicators of well-being during the Latinx college transition and seek to implement programs to: a) reduce stress associated with engaging in diverse college environments and b) reduce discrimination experiences on college campuses. Future research is needed for replication of these results and should also seek to further explore the trajectories of internalizing symptoms beyond the first semester of college.

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2019-05