DISCRIMINATION, HPA-AXIS ACTIVITY, AND RACIAL IDENTITY IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN ADOLESCENT RISK FOR DEPRESSION
Culturally relevant models of social, psychological, and biological risk for depression in African American youth have long been called for, to account for unique risk factors they experience (e.g., discrimination) and that incorporate culturally specific protective assets (e.g., racial identity). Yet few studies have directly examined physiological mechanisms that might mediate the connection between discrimination and depression, nor the way in which cultural assets may attenuate such
... enuate such pathways. The present study is an explicit test of a model of risk for depression that integrates discrimination during adolescence, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis as a biological regulator of social stress, and dimensions of racial identity as potential moderators of HPA-axis dysregulation. A subsample of 109 African-American adolescents (age 11-17; M = 12.88, SD = 1.11) who completed a social stress paradigm was drawn from a larger longitudinal study on risk for depression. Utilizing a longitudinal design, variables were collected on prior discrimination experience, cortisol reactivity and recovery during the stress paradigm, racial identity at the time of the stress paradigm, and concurrent and prospective depressive symptoms. A series of regression analyses and t-tests were conducted to test the impact of discrimination on cortisol regulation and depressive symptoms, and the moderating role of racial identity in the relation between cortisol regulation and depressive symptoms. Youth who reported discrimination experienced higher mean levels of depression. Discrimination was not related to cortisol regulation, nor were racial identity dimensions significant moderators in risk for depressive symptoms. This study, the first to explicitly test a culturally relevant model of risk for depression, points to the importance of capturing nuances in stress reactivity to discrimination in explicit tests of culturally-relevant models of depression in minority youth.