Racial/Ethnic Differences in Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Disorders in Adolescents

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Objective: Research has cited increased prevalence of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and exposure to interpersonal violence for Hispanics and non-Hispanic Black adolescents, as well as ethnic differences in externalizing behavior (e.g., substance use, delinquency). The current study combined these areas by examining racial/ethnic differences in mental health correlates of trauma exposure. Method: Interviews were conducted to assess polyvictimization, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder (MDD), substance use, and delinquency in a nationally representative sample of adolescents (N = 3,614; 15.4% non-Hispanic Black; 11.3% Hispanic; 64.9% non-Hispanic White). Results: Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black adolescents endorsed greater polyvictimization than non-Hispanic Whites; however, differences in MDD and PTSD were only significant when assessed with symptom counts. Non-Hispanic Black adolescents reported the least drug use. Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic adolescents endorsed more delinquency than non-Hispanic White adolescents. Polyvictimization only accounted for ethnic disparities in delinquency. Conclusion: Trauma-related disparities may differ across internalizing and externalizing concerns. Subsequent research should continue to examine other factors that may contribute to racial/ethnic differences in trauma sequelae.

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