American Sociological Association

The Black-White Paradox Revisited: Understanding the Role of Counterbalancing Mechanisms during Adolescence

The tendency for blacks to report similar or better mental health than whites has served as an enduring paradox in the mental health literature for the past three decades. However, a debate persists about the mechanisms that underlie this paradox. Drawing on the stress process framework, we consider the counterbalancing roles of self-esteem and traumatic stress exposure in understanding the “black-white paradox” among U.S. adolescents. Using nationally representative data, we observe that blacks have higher levels of self-esteem than whites but also encounter higher levels of traumatic stress exposure. Adjusting for self-esteem reveals a net higher rate of mood disorders and distress among blacks relative to whites, and differences in traumatic stress exposure mediate this association. In the full model, we show that self-esteem and stress exposure offset each other, resulting in a null association between race and mood disorders and a reduced association between race and distress.

Authors

Patricia Louie and Blair Wheaton

Volume

60

Issue

2

Starting Page

169

Ending Page

187