The Protective Role of Ethnic Identity for Urban Adolescent Males Facing Multiple Stressors

Joanna L. Williams, Sophie M. Aiyer, Myles I. Durkee, Patrick H. Tolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Having a connection to one’s ethnic heritage is considered a protective factor in the face of discrimination; however, it is unclear whether the protective effects are persistent across multiple stressors. Furthermore, the dimensions of ethnic identity that reflect group pride/connection (affirmation) and exploration of the meaning of group membership (achievement) may operate differently in the face of stress. The present study examined the moderating role of ethnic identity affirmation and achievement on concurrent and longitudinal relationships between exposure to stress (discrimination, family hardship, exposure to violence) and antisocial behavior in a sample of 256 Black and Latino male youth (70 % Black) living in low-income urban neighborhoods. Using regression analysis, concurrent associations were examined at age 18, and longitudinal associations were tested 18 months later. We found that, among youth experiencing discrimination, high levels of achievement and low levels of affirmation predicted greater aggressive behavior and delinquency. Low affirmation also predicted more criminal offending in the face of discrimination. The two dimensions operated similarly in the context of family stress, in which case high levels of affirmation and achievement predicted lower levels of antisocial behavior. The findings suggest a differential role of the two dimensions of ethnic identity with respect to discrimination; furthermore, the coping skills that may be promoted as youth make meaning of their ethnic group membership may serve as cultural assets in the face of family stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1728-1741
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • African American youth
  • Discrimination
  • Ethnic identity
  • Latino youth
  • Stress
  • Urban youth


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