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Penn McNair Research Journal

Abstract

Background: Perceived racial discrimination acts as a considerable stressor for African- Americans and is associated with adverse health outcomes among adults and adolescents. The relationship between perceived discrimination and socioeconomic dimensions has been studied among adult African-American populations to assess the role of social patterning in reports of discrimination. However, less is known about the relationship between parental educational attainment and adolescents’ perceived discrimination.

Methods: We explored the relationship between parental educational attainment and adolescents’ reports of racial discrimination using written surveys from 135 African-American female adolescents seeking family planning services at an urban hospital-based adolescent clinic in Pennsylvania. Dimensions of perceived discrimination that were captured in this study included personal experiences, vicarious racial discrimination, and perceived discrimination against African-Americans as a group. Parental educational attainment was categorized as “some or completed high school/GED” and “some or completed college.” To account for missing parental education data, a sensitivity analysis was performed in which missing data were recoded into parental education categories and used in chi-square cross tabulations.

Results: Most of the sample (mean age = 17.04; SD = 1.33) had completed high school or were currently enrolled in school, and were living in single-parent homes. Close to half (41.5%) of respondents did not know their father’s educational attainment, and 17.8% did not know their mother’s educational attainment. To account for missing education data, a sensitivity analysis was performed, which revealed no significant association between parental educational attainment and adolescents’ perceived discrimination. However, although the respondents in our study do not appear to experience frequent discrimination, 85.9% reported at least one dimension of discrimination measured in this study.

Conclusions: The large percentage of African-American female adolescents who reported at least one dimension of discrimination implies an added burden and vulnerability to social stressors in their life.

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