Racial identity self esteem and depressive symptomatology


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The present study hypothesis is that personal self esteem (PSE) mediates the relationship between racial identity centrality and depressive symptomatology, such that higher levels of racial identity centrality predict lower depressive symptomatology via high PSE. It is important to understand the relationship between these variables, while considering the specific dimensions of racial identity, as previous studies have failed to examine relationships between all three variables simultaneously. Bivariate and multiple regression analyses, using a pilot sample (n=25), were conducted to test the predictions of a negative relationship between racial identity centrality and depression, a relationship between racial identity centrality and PSE, PSE and depressive symptomatology and that PSE will have a partial mediating effect on racial identity centrality and depressive symptomatology.

The effect of racial identity on African Americans has been the subject of many discussions in academic discourse and settings. In particular, a relationship has been found between strong Black identity and certain psychological outcomes among African Americans. It has been posited that these outcomes are associated with the stigma of being Black (Haroowitz, 1939; Steele & Aronson, 1955). One study has found that depression, which is one such psychological outcome, was related to self esteem and depressive symptoms among adolescents in the seventh and eighth grade (Mandora, Richards, Gaylord-Harden, & Ragsdale, 2009). An understanding of the relationship between racial identity and depression within this broader context is an important step toward examining the Jamaican situation. The Jamaican motto of "out of many one people" depicts the wide range of racial groups that co-exist within this predominately Black society. This combined with the psychological remnants of slavery and the inequality that surrounds class, race and "shade" have caused increasing interest in the way that Jamaicans identify with their racial groups and the psychological effects it may have on them. Hence, this exploration will allow for a clear understanding of this relationship within Jamaica and, subsequently, a comparison of the findings to those in previous studies in other countries.

Social Identity Theory posits that individuals do not have a personal self. Rather, they have numerous identities that are developed through group membership- for example, race. A person's perception of what defines "us" (the social group) is associated with their internalization of their group membership, that is, how central the group is to one's self-concept. Therefore, depending on the social context that an individual is placed in, the group with which they identify may then trigger how they think, feel and act (Tajfel & Turner, 1978).

Self concept is the "thinking" or cognitive aspect of our self. An individual's self concept incorporates what they have learned, the attitudes, schemas and opinions that an individual incorporate when they think of their existence. One's self concept develops as a result of reflection and rumination about past actions and their interaction with their social environment. According to Franks (1994), self concept has a clear relationship with self esteem. Furthermore, one's self concept is usually linked to the groups with which one is affiliated. Historical events such as slavery, as well as experiences of discrimination and prejudice are some factors that may affect the importance of such group affiliation (particularly, that of race) to Black people. This, in conjunction with the role that race plays in determining patterns of thinking and behaviour, may result in a situation in which race is very central to how one defines themselves, especially within the context of a predominantly Black but mixed society. In short, the role that group affiliation plays in the definition of one's self concept and the relationship between self concept and self esteem implies that thoughts about one's racial affiliation may affect one's self-esteem and, hence, physical and psychological outcomes.

Racial Identity

Racial identity has been an area of interest to many researchers and has been investigated in a variety of contexts. Previous studies have primarily explored its correlation with psychosocial outcomes (such as depression), experiences of discrimination and self esteem levels. Racial identity has been found to have important implications for the social experiences of individuals living in some societies. In addition, identification with one's racial group and the intensity of that identification has been posited to have a protective effect on their personal self esteem (Azibo, 1989; Baldwin, 1984; Cross, 1971, 1999). Nevertheless, racial groups such as African Americans have had the unpleasant reality of inequality in many aspects of their social life (Kessler, Mickelson & Williams, 1999; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999).

Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity

The Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity is one of the many models used to define racial identity among African Americans in previous studies. Racial identity applies to one's self-concept in light of their racial group, and has four dimensions: salience, ideology, racial regard and racial centrality. Racial salience refers to one's racial identity in a particular setting. Racial ideology pertains to the standards an individual holds for his or her racial group with regard to appropriate or acceptable behaviour within the society to which they are a part. There are two dimensions to racial regard: private and public regard. Private regard is concerned with how a person feels about their racial group, while public regard refers to the beliefs held by individuals regarding how others feel about the racial group to the particular individual belongs. Last among these, racial centrality applies to the extent to which race is one of the fundamental factors used in defining one's self-concept (Rowley, Seller, & Smith, 1998).


Depression is a state of mental health that encompasses a variety of negative moods and changes in behaviour. Moods may vary in intensity and duration and can range from feelings of minor melancholy to an intensely negative view of self and the world, and an accompanying inability to function effectively. An individual's vulnerability for depression has been linked to number of etiological factors, namely heredity, age, gender, negative life events, and lack of social support (Sarason, I.G., & Sarason B.R, 2005 pp 333-334). Depression presents with specific symptoms which include feeling of hopelessness, sadness, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, suicidal ideations or recurrent thoughts of death, irritability and loss of interest in activities that were once considered pleasurable (The American Psychological Association, 2000).

Racial identity and Depression

Racial identity has been defined and operationalised in a variety of ways. This has implications for the types of results that have been found regarding the relationship between racial identity and depressive symptomatology. The literature indicates that there is a relationship between some dimensions of racial identity and depressive symptomatology. One such study found that there was a weak but positive relationship between racial identity and depression among a sample of African American University students. It must be noted, however, that the tool that was used to measure depressive symptomatology was designed to measure symptoms of depression, Obsessive Compulsive disorder and anxiety. In addition, racial identity was conceptualized based on a developmental model of racial identity-particularly, Cross's Stage Model of Racial Identity (Gilbert, So, Russel, Wessle, 2006). Another discrepancy that existed among the studies that found a similar relationship is the nature of this relationship. For instance, some have found a relationship between private regard and depression, public regard and depression and racial centrality and depression among a group of African American citizens in the United States (Settles et al., 2010). However, the relationship between racial centrality and depression is of particular importance to the current study, as this sets the framework for the mediating relationship with self esteem. One must note nonetheless, that the present study will focus on personal rather than collective self esteem and its mediating effect.

Self esteem

Self esteem is the degree to which the self is perceived positively or negatively. It may also refer to one's overall attitude toward the self (Baron, Bryne & Branscombe, 2000). There are different dimensions of self esteem, namely: collective self esteem (which measures how one values him or herself as it relates to a group or social identity); personal self esteem (how one values himself or herself as an individual) (Cremer & Oosterwegel, 2000) and global self esteem. Individuals with high self esteem usually think of themselves highly and are usually satisfied with their attributes and performance. In contrast, persons with low self esteem are usually not satisfied with themselves and this translates into all areas of their life. Measures of this construct frequently apply to many areas of an individual's life, such as school and relationships (Baron, Bryne & Branscombe, 2000). Previous studies have found that self esteem is correlated with aspects of psychological well-being, such as depression. It also moderates and mediates the relationships between racial identity and depression, and racial identity and experiences of discrimination.

The role of self-esteem in the relationship between racial identity and depression has also been investigated in a more indirect fashion than the aforementioned studies. As such, this relationship has been examined based on one's feelings of self-worth. Mead (1925), in his theory of reflected appraisal, postulated that a person's self-perception is largely influenced by the feedback that they receive from others regarding how they have been perceived. This perception of self then informs our feelings of self-worth or self esteem. The race to which one identifies and when given feedback from others whether positive or negative regarding their perceptions will subsequently affect the individuals concept of self and the tendency for the development of psychological symptoms in relation to these internalization.

Several conclusions about the relationship between dimensions of self esteem and levels of depression have been examined within the literature. However, there have been contrasting views among some researchers in their elucidation of the existence, strength and direction of such relationships. Among African Americans a relationship was found between the self esteem dimension of public regard and depression. In the research it was shown that higher levels of public regard were related to less depression (Yip, Seaton & Sellers 2006), fewer symptoms of psychological distress and attitudes that were positive in nature to educational attainment, as was reliably advanced by Mead's (1925) theory of reflected appraisal.

Racial Identity and Self esteem

Previous studies have shown that racial identity private regard is positively correlated with self esteem (Rowley, Sellers, & Smith, 1998). Also, it was found that racial centrality moderates the relationship between racial regard and personal self esteem (Rowley, Sellers, & Smith, 1998). In studies that used a sample of African American women, it was found that self- esteem fully mediates the relationship between private regard and depression. This finding shows that there is a relationship between racial identity and self esteem and that self esteem could be appropriately used as a mediating variable in the relationship between racial identity and depression. However, it would be useful to ascertain which dimension of racial identity is related to self esteem, as one research study has found that there was no relationship between racial identity centrality and self esteem (Rowley et al).

Current Study

The aim of the current study is to answer the following question: Does personal self esteem partially mediate the relationship between racial identity centrality and depressive symptomatology? Racial identity centrality will be used as the predictor to verify the findings of previous research studies which suggest, that a specific type of racial identity has more of a relationship with depressive symptomatology and self esteem than do the other forms of racial identity (Rowley et al, 1998 & Settles et al, 2010). However most of the literature examined, focused on racial identity public regard and private regard and their relationship to depressive symptomatology and self esteem. With this in mind the centrality dimension of racial identity was selected as the predictor to examine the possibility of a mediating relationship among these variables. Our specific hypothesis is as follows:


Personal self esteem will partially mediate the relationship between racial identity centrality and depressive symptomatology such that higher levels of racial identity centrality will be related to high personal self esteem, which in turn will be related to lower depressive symptomatology.



The sample for the present study was derived from the target population of a broader study that will investigate various relationships that pertain to Attitudes toward Transracial Adoption and social constructs such as depression, self esteem, experience of discrimination, life satisfaction and multiple dimensions of racial identity. The sample for the broader study constituted 1 055 University students. However, the ideal sample for the present study will consist of 150 university students. The sample size was calculated using Green's (1991) rules of thumb for calculating sample sizes. These rules may be applied to tests of multiple correlation (N ≥ 50 + 8m) as well as individual predictor variables (N≥ 104 + m) (Tabachnick & Fidel, 2007) . The sample sizes that were gleaned from these formulae were 106 and 111 respectively of which the large sample size was selected. These formulae assume that the study has an alpha of .05 and power of .80. One of the planned analyses is a stepwise regression, which would require a sample of 120 to be considered reliable.

Prior research has indicated that the response rate of the University in which this study is being conducted is 60%. Therefore, oversampling will be involved in the sampling process in order to garner the required number of participants. As a result, it was calculated that the ideal sample size for this study will be 150 as 40% more participants were added to the initial sample size which was 120. For the purpose of conducting univariate and bivariate analyses, a pilot sample of 25 University students will be used.

This particular section of the population (University students) was selected in accordance with the trends of previous studies (Rowley, Seller, Chavous & Smith, 1998; Phelps Taylor and Gerard, 2001). This will allow for a comparison of the results from different countries and cultural backgrounds. Also, the University that was selected has a diverse racial composition. The sample frame consisted of 1055 students from five faculties who were randomly selected using a proportionate random stratified sampling technique to obtain a representative sample of the student population.

The criterion for selection was that of enrollment for the academic year 2009-2010 in the following five faculties: Social Sciences, Medical Science, Pure and Applied Sciences, Humanities and Education and Law. The percentage distributions of students selected for the sample from these faculties were 37%, 23%, 19%, 21% and 1.45% respectively (proportionate random stratification will also be used when selecting participants for the ideal sample). These individuals were from a variety of national backgrounds and racial groups. Prior to the administration of the survey, the participants were asked to sign an informed consent form and advised that they were allowed to withdraw their participation at any time.


The constructs of interest were racial identity centrality, personal self esteem and depression (as a psychosocial outcome). Racial identity centrality, self esteem and depression were the independent variable, mediating variable and dependent variable respectively.

The measure which was used to assess racial identity centrality is the Collective Self Esteem scale, which was created by Crocker and Luhtanen (1992). This scale is used to measure collective self esteem and social identity. The Collective Self Esteem scale consists of 16 items which examine membership, private collective self esteem, public collective self esteem and identity (Crocker & Luhtanen, 1994). For the purpose of this study, the items used to measure identity (items 4,8,12 and 16) were the focus. The measure has a Likert scale which ranges from 1 (strongly agree) to 7 (strongly disagree). "The internal consistency alpha for the identitysection is .81." (Crocker & Luhtanen, 1994).

Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale

The measure which was used to assess self esteem was the Rosenberg Self Esteem scale (Rosenberg, 1979). This is a 10-item scale that measures personal esteem in individuals. The Rosenberg Self Esteem scale has an internal consistency of .87 (Rowley, Seller, Chavous & Smith, 1998). The measure uses a Likert scale which ranges from 1 (strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree), such that higher scores correspond with high levels of personal self esteem. Questions 1, 3, 4, 7, and 10 are positively worded while questions 2, 5, 6 and 9 are negatively worded. The scale has a test-retest reliability of .80 (Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992). Each response is assigned a value, which is then added to determine the individual's self esteem.

Beck Depression Inventory

The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is a 21-item scale that measures the number of

depressive symptoms and attitudes that an individual displays. Each item ranges from 1 to 4, indicating the intensity of the attitude or symptoms. The 1978 version of the BDI (α =0.81) (Beck, Steer & Garbin, 1988) was used in the present study; however, it excluded the item related to suicidal ideation. The questions specifically spoke to mood; pessimism; sense of failure; lack of satisfaction; guilt feelings; sense of punishment; self-dislike; self-accusation; crying; irritability; social withdrawal; indecisiveness; distortion of body image; work inhibition; sleep disturbance; fatigability; loss of appetite; weight loss; somatic preoccupation; and loss of libido. For example, the range of items related to mood was as follows: "I do not feel sad"; "I feel sad"; I am sad all the time and I can't snap out of it"; "I am so sad or unhappy that I can't stand it".


Experience of Discrimination

Experience of discrimination is one of the scales which will be used as a covariate within the study. The experience of discrimination scale has a Cronbach alpha of .74. Within this scale, 9 items asked about experiences of discrimination within different situations- for example, at school, getting a job, getting a housing or medical care. Participants are also asked about the frequency of these experiences. The remaining 6 items constituted a Likert scale that measured experiences of discrimination towards one's racial group. This scale was used in a study by Keiger & Sidney (1994), which found that the experience of discrimination values were highest among Blacks, somewhat lower for Latinos and much lower for Whites.


Race is another variable which will be used to assess the effect that racial identity centrality has on psychological outcomes, when mediated by self esteem. Information about each participant's race was gained from the demographic section of the questionnaire, in which participants were asked to specify their race.


Another covariate which will be controlled for within the study is gender, as it is believed that gender may affect one's level of racial identity centrality, personal self esteem and the number of depressive symptoms that one experiences. One particular study investigated the relationship among racial identity, psychosocial symptoms and masculinity among males in and out of university (Mahalik, Pierre & Wan, 2006). It was also found that there is a correlation between racial identity, self esteem, depressive symptoms and gender (Mandora, Richards, Gaylord-Harden & Ragsdale (2009). In a study conducted following public school student from seventh to eighth grade it was found that the correlation was higher between racial identity, depression and self esteem in males than females and there was not a predictive effect between self esteem and racial identity among females .However, this sample consisted of adolescents in the seventh and eighth grade. Research conducted by Rowley, Seller, Chavous & Smith, (1998) contradict these findings, as it was found that there was no gender difference affecting relationship between racial identity and psychological outcomes among University students. However, this is a variable that will be used as a covariate within the present research study. This information will be obtained through the response to the demographic question of sex within the questionnaire.

Racial Identity Public and Private regard

These two dimensions of racial identity (based on the Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity) will be used as covariates in the present study. Both dimensions of racial identity were measured in the Collective Self Esteem Scale (Crocker & Luhtanen, 1992). The items that measure racial identity private regard are 2, 6, 10 and 14 (items 2 and 10 were negatively worded), the internal consistency for the items measuring private regard was # .The items related to racial identity public regard are 3, 7, 11 and 15 with an internal consistency of Cronbach alpha of #.


Initially participants were administered a web- based survey, consisting of the Rosenberg Self esteem Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and Experience of Racial Discrimination Scale. A system known as "Survey Monkey" was used to administer the survey via e-mail. Given the budgetary constraints of the study, this medium was deemed appropriate due to its cost-effectiveness and convenience. Over a two week period, messages were sent to the personal email addresses of the potential participants with the approval of the campus registrar and through collaboration with the institution's Information Technology Service, which provided the database of student information. The e-mails were used to introduce individuals to the study and request their participation. Due to poor response rates, however, an alternative medium of data collection was also implemented. As such, prospective participant were contacted in the field by student representatives. This first point of contact (via telephone) was made in order to arrange specific dates and times at which the questionnaire would be administered. Participants who completed the questionnaire were entered into a weekly raffle for $500 phone credit. Since the beginning of data collection, 128 paper and pencil administered questionnaires have been collected. Sixty-four online questionnaires were sent to respondents via e-mail, of these 24 were completed.

Planned Analysis

Response bias will be checked by comparing the characteristics of the persons who participated in the study with those that did not. The data will be monitored to see if there are significant changes in the population within the data collection period. Also, randomly selected participants will be contacted via telephone in order to determine the similarity between their responses and those of others who actually participated in the study.

Preliminary analyses were conducted using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to generate the mean, standard deviation, and skewness of the variables of racial identity centrality, personal self esteem and depressive symptomatology. In the Collective Self Esteem Scale, the questions related to racial identity centrality contained two questions that were positively skewed and two that were negatively skewed. In the Beck Depression Inventory and Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, all the variables were positively skewed. Questions 4 and 12 in the Collective Self Esteem Scale were recoded. Questions 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9 in the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale were also recoded so that the negatively worded questions could be scored appropriately.

The presence of outliers was detected by generating a Box plot graph for each variable. In order to ensure that these were genuine outliers, the data was checked for errors in data entry. No inconsistencies were found and the data was subsequently transformed using a Logarithm transformation. Then, the compute function in SPSS was utilized to create an index for the racial identity centrality variable, depression and personal self esteem. The mean function was used specifically, as it corresponded with the way that this variable was created in previous studies. Box plot graphs were generated again using this new variable of racial identity centrality. The reliability of the measures will be assessed to attain the reliability coefficient (Cronbach's alpha) of these three scales. Using the pilot sample, it was found that the Beck Depression Inventory, the Rosenberg Self Esteem scale and the Collective Self Esteem Scale items, which measured racial identity centrality, had internal consistency reliabilities of .734, .661 and .505 respectively.

Bivariate correlational analyses will be conducted to test for the three predictions- that there is a relationship between racial identity centrality and depressive symptomatology, personal self esteem and depressive symptomatology; and racial identity centrality and personal self esteem. Correlation analyses will be conducted using these variables because a relationship has to exist between these pairs of variables before examining the role of the mediating variable. Our examination of the mediating relationship of racial identity centrality, personal self esteem and depressive symptomatology will be undertaken by conducting a sequential multiple regression analysis. A sequential multiple regression will be used to assess the interaction effect among the variables to establish the effect the predictor has on the criterion, while controlling for the covariate. This choice of analytical strategy is justified, as the current study will involve the use of one continuous dependent variable (depressive symptomatology), multiple continuous independent variables (the covariates and racial identity centrality) and there are some covariates. The sequence for analysis will assume the following order: Covariates will be entered first, followed by the predictor (in order to assess the main effect of this variable). Then the covariates and predictor variable will be multiplied in order to assess the interaction effect in an effort to assess what each variable adds to the equation at its own point of entry.

Within this study, there were a number of limitations. Firstly, the pilot sample would be too small to adequately represent the proposed ideal population. The limited data that resulted from this has contributed to its skewness. In addition, the analytical strategy that will be used (a stepwise multiple regression model) is considered to be very controversial (Tabachnick and Fidel, 1997). This could have some effect on its reliability and the extent to which the results may be generalized. Finally, the response rate among participants was poor. This was partially due to the fact that some persons were unable to complete the questionnaire as the survey monkey software malfunctioned on numerous occasions and incomplete questionnaires were omitted from the data analysis.

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