Racial Discrimination, Coping Resources, and Delinquency: An Empirical Test and Extension of Strain Theory

Ronald L. Simons, University of Georgia
Leslie Gordon Simons, University of Georgia

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 investigated 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 approiximately 700 African American children living in Georgia and Iowa, we begin by establishing an association between exposure to discrimination and delinquent behavior. This relation held after controlling for other types of stressful events, parental behavior, and affiliation with deviant peers. Next, we turn our focus to factors that might serve as coping resources for African American youth facing discrimination. We examined the extent to which parental support, religiosity, ethnic identity, and community collective supervision service to moderate the relationship between discrimination and delinquency. Although the analyses showed several significant moderator effects, the findings differed somewhat by gender of child.

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Updated 05/20/2006