Racial Identity in the Context of Pubertal Development: Implications for Adjustment

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Abstract

The developmental significance of youths’ racial identities during adolescence is well established. It is less clear how puberty, a normative process, influences the relationship between racial identity and adjustment outcomes during adolescence. This study examined whether puberty moderates the relationship between racial identity dimensions and internalizing and externalizing outcomes, and whether the effects of puberty and racial identity on internalizing and externalizing outcomes vary by child sex. Data are drawn from African American families (N = 176; 48% female) who participated in Waves 4 and 5 of Phase III of the NICHD SECCYD. Results indicated that fifth-grade boys who felt more positively about being African American and were less advanced in their pubertal development evidenced less internalizing problems 1 year later, after adjusting for previous internalizing levels; however, for boys further in their pubertal development, having higher private regard was associated with more, rather than less, internalizing problems. Additionally, fifth-grade boys and girls who were less advanced in their pubertal development and believed that society views African Americans in a more positive light (higher public regard levels) engaged in more externalizing behaviors 1 year later, after adjusting for previous externalizing levels. Findings offer new insights into the independent and synergistic linkages between racial identity and pubertal development in their relation to internalizing and externalizing outcomes among African American youth.

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