Incidents of Discrimination and Risk for Delinquency: A Longitudinal Study of African American Adolescents

Ronald L. Simons, University of Georgia
Yi-Fu Chen, Iowa State University
Leslie C. Gordon, Clemson University

Evidence from a variety of sources suggests that African American children are more likely to display conduct problems than White children. Such differences underscore the importance of research investigating the factors that place African American youth at risk for behavior problems. The present study investigates the extent to which exposure to racial discrimination increases the chances of an African American adolescent engaging in delinquent behavior. Using data from a longitudinal study of approximately 800 African American children living in Georgia and Iowa, we begin by establishing a correlation between exposure to discrimination and delinquent behavior. next, based upon hypotheses derived from starin theory, we use SEM to test various hypotheses regarding the emotional and cognitive factors that mediate this association. For boys, the association between discrimination and delinquency was mediated by feelings of anger and depression and by the belief that aggression is a necessary interpersonal tactic. The results were somewhat different for girls. Although anger and depression mediated part of the effect of discrimination on delinquency, discrimination continued to display a small but significant direct effect. The implications of these findings for criminological theory are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006