Positive feelings about race, ethnicity signal better outcomes for minority youth

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A diverse multi-ethnic group of children. (stock image)ANN ARBOR—Minority youth who feel good about their ethnicity or race exhibit fewer symptoms of depression and emotional and behavior problems, new research suggests.

These youths also experience more positive social interactions and better self-esteem, well-being and academic achievement, according to a new meta-analysis summarizing 46 existing studies.

"These findings suggest that youth may experience not only psychological benefits, but also greater commitment and connection to academics," said Deborah Rivas-Drake, associate professor of psychology and education at the University of Michigan, who led the analysis while at Brown University.

We now have a bit more clarity about the role of ethnic and racial identity in the lives of diverse children. Deborah Rivas-Drake

Rivas-Drake conducted the research with colleagues at the University of Minnesota, Arizona State University, West Virginia University, University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Miami.

They looked at ethnic-racial affect, or how youths felt about their race or ethnicity, through multiple studies to determine how it's related to well-being, distress, health risk and academic adjustment among African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American and Pacific Islander youth in the U.S.

"The literature to date has been fragmented in ways that preclude definitive conclusions," Rivas-Drake said. "We now have a bit more clarity about the role of ethnic and racial identity in the lives of diverse children."

Overall, positive ethnic-racial affect had wide-ranging implications for youth adjusting to life.

The analysis indicated that positive feelings lowered the risk of unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drug use, all of which have long-term implications for health, well-being and economic opportunity.

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