The physical and mental health of multiracial adolescents in the United States

Jamie Mihoko Doyle, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Healthy People 2010 objectives cite the need to eliminate racial disparities in health by the year 2050. However, with increases in intermarriage and migration, a growing number of individuals are self-identifying with more than one race. It is unclear whether they constitute a growing, at-risk population that policy interventions currently overlook. This analysis evaluates the physical and mental health status of multiracial adolescents, particularly in comparison to single race groups. The data are from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative study of approximately 20,000 youth ages 12-18 interviewed in 1995 and re-interviewed 6 years later. The main outcome measures for physical health include weight status (Body Mass Index) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For mental health, the measures include depression (CES-D) and self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale). Sexual debut was also examined. Generalized Estimating Equations are used for all analyses using logistic regression and Generalized Linear Mixed Models are used for continuous dependent variables to correct for the Add Health study design. Overall, findings from this dissertation demonstrate that socioeconomic privilege does not necessarily confer positive physical and/or mental health. Interracial families have a mid- to high-socioeconomic profile; yet Asian-White multiracials exhibit a poor mental health profile and Black-White multiracials exhibit the highest risk of having STDs as adults. Moreover, most multiracial subgroups resemble their single-race minority counterparts on most outcomes considered. In terms of physical health, Asian-White and Black-White mutltiracials are not at a disproportionately high risk of being obese as young adults, irrespective of how races are categorized. This thesis has uncovered several mediated mechanisms for these patterns—yet this diverse area of research on multiracials is still in infancy. The role of peer networks, culture, and school contexts in shaping the physical and mental health of multiracials are all interesting avenues for a future researcher to pursue.^

Subject Area

Sociology, General|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Sociology, Demography

Recommended Citation

Doyle, Jamie Mihoko, "The physical and mental health of multiracial adolescents in the United States" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3271743.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3271743

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