Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




African-American youth from economically-disadvantaged, urban families and communities are disproportionately exposed to stressful life conditions, including racial discrimination, placing them at increased risk for mental health problems (Gonzales & Kim, 1997; Grant et al., 2000). Though exposure to racial discrimination can span a lifetime, examining youths’ encounters with discrimination during adolescence allows us to better understand how they affect development during a critical period in which they are developing racial/ethnic identity and increasing their use of reasoning. Coping research with African American youth has found evidence for racial discrimination predicting use of culturally-relevant coping strategies (Gaylord-Harden & Cunningham, 2009) and suggests that low-income African American youths may draw upon other unique and culturally-relevant coping strategies that are not captured on existing measures of universal coping strategies. Some of these coping strategies are reflected in a 52-item measure called the Youth Africultural Coping System Inventory (Y-ACSI; Gaylord-Harden & Utsey, 2007) including four afrocentrically-derived factors: Emotional Debriefing, Spiritually-Centered Coping, Maintaining Harmony, and Communalistic/Collectivistic Coping.

Given the unique coping patterns of African-American boys, the current study attempted to validate the Y-ACSI in a sample of African American adolescent males using confirmatory factor analysis, determined whether racial discrimination predicts the use of culturally relevant coping strategies beyond that of mainstream coping, identified groups of youth based on their

coping patterns and racial discrimination experiences and examined patterns of psychosocial functioning among latent coping groups.

The current study was comprised of 660 African American male adolescents between the ages of 14-18 (Mage = 15.39 SD = 1.70, 47.7% 9th graders) recruited from three all-boys, public, charter schools in low-income Chicago neighborhoods as part of a larger, longitudinal study examining determinants of academic and socio-emotional outcomes. A first-order confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) testing the four-factor structure of the Y-ACSI yielded inadequate fit for the sample; therefore, four second-order CFAs were run for each of the four factors, all achieving adequate fit. Additionally, multiple regression analyses revealed that racial discrimination only predicted levels of emotional debriefing coping (ß = -0.93, p = .026). Latent Class Analysis identified a four-class solution based on culturally-relevant coping strategy use and exposure to racial discrimination, yielding the following groups: mixed coping, low discrimination group (n = 45); moderate coping, high discrimination group (n = 196); high coping, low discrimination group (n = 117); and high coping, high discrimination group (n = 244). Finally, comparisons among the four LCA groups in regard to psychosocial variables revealed the influence of racial discrimination on school belonging and of culturally relevant coping strategy use on social skills.

Overall, the study findings demonstrate that African American male adolescents indeed culturally-relevant coping strategies at varying levels and presents much-needed insight into the complex relationship between culturally-relevant coping and racial discrimination within this population.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.