Racial and ethnic variations are common in most of the American families. Race and ethnicity is one of the major social factors that could affect the growth and trajectory of adolescent life to adulthood. According to most psychologists, parenting practices and social well-being differs from various ethnic groups or race (Heard, 2007, p. 320). The variations could always affect the development of an adolescent, and it should always be well-thought-out. Adolescent period is a very crucial time since it will eventually affect the development of adult life. Different studies and articles have discussed the effects of race and ethnicity to adolescent trajectories. These studies show that various social factors especially ethnicity could cause a lot of behavior alteration during the adolescent period.
The aim of this paper is to evaluate how race and ethnicity affects the development of the adolescent life using the published articles concerning adolescent psychology. It also opts to analyze the relationship of ethnicity to the various aspects such as sexual risks, physical growth, school performance, social life and depression among adolescents. Lastly, the objective of this paper is to report latest studies about the effects of ethnicity on adolescent growth and development.
Ethnicity and Sexual Risks among Adolescents
The frequency of sexual intercourse and its negative effects among adolescents could be different from every racial class in the United States. The early researches suggest that there are ethnic groups that have a higher risk of sexual behavior than the others. According to the studies of Coker and Miller in the early 1990s, African American and Hispanic adolescents are more frequently subjected to sexual intercourse than the other ethnic groups. It also implies higher frequency of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) for them. According to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), Asian-Americans have the higher levels of adolescents not using safe contraceptives while commencing in a sexual intercourse (Majundar, 2005, p. 20). These reports are only a few on how to illustrate the variations of sexual behavior among ethnic groups.
The purpose of Majundar’s study is to evaluate the racial variation of adolescents involved in risky sexual activities. The used the data from the Add Health to explain how ethnic groups differ from each other in terms of sexual behavior. They interviewed almost 8500 adolescents and found out that some of the ethnic groups have higher frequency of adolescents commencing risky sexual activities. The study shows how racial variation could affect sexual trajectory among adolescents and describes the culture that promotes this sexual behavior.
There are various attempts to study how these variations on sexual behavior occur from different ethnic groups. The influence of family is one of the major factors for the child’s understanding of the important issues such as sexual activities. However, Furstenberg pointed out that there are other factors outside the family relations which could greatly affect a person’s behavior regarding these important issues. These factors could vary from the racial composition of the school or the sexual perception of the peers (Majundar, 2005, p. 20). Race and ethnicity is one of the factors that could relate how sexual perception could vary among adolescents.
The findings in the study of Debarun Majumdar were almost identical to the previous studies about the sexual activities among ethnic groups made in the early 1990s. He also found out that there are higher sexual activities and higher risk for STDs among the African American and Hispanic adolescents. He also discovered that Asian-Americans adolescents have the most frequent sexual intercourse without the use of contraceptives. In his study, he tries to explain how these variations appear among the ethnic groups.
One of his major conclusions is that there are higher frequencies of adolescents participating in risky sexual intercourse from the minority groups. This is because there are cultural factors that restrict them from using contraception. Family structure and social demographics also differ from every ethnic group. Asian-American population are relatively young which implies that there they participate in sexual activity earlier than the other ethnic groups (Majumdar, 2005, p. 32). In general, the major factors that control sexual activities among adolescents such as self-efficacy, sexual values and parent monitoring differs from different ethnic groups. This probably explains how ethnicity affects the sexual trajectory among adolescents.
Ethnicity and School Performance of Adolescents
The most common explanation why there is a variation on the school performances of adolescents among ethnic groups is that social support and functioning of schools also differs among race. The American family structure is very different among ethnic groups that explain the variation of adolescent developments. The predictors of school achievements are analyzed by the psychologists between ethnic groups to evaluate how race varied their adolescent school performances. These predictors are stress, school functioning, parenting practices and social well-being (Heard, 2007, p. 319).
The study of heard opts to analyze how racial variation could be a factor in family structure trajectory for the school performance of the adolescents. The study used the longitudinal data which interviewed 10,000 adolescents. The result of the study shows that racial variation in stress, school functioning and social supports are the factors that differs the school performances of the adolescents among ethnic groups. The study could be used to evaluate how racial variation could be a factor in assessing the school performances of adolescents from different race.
According to Heard (2007, p. 320), the child’s school achievement could be greatly affected by the family structures or familial influences. However, family context varies from different ethnic groups which explain why race could be a factor for adolescent’s development in schools. Family structure could be one of the major factors for the adolescent school achievements and attainments. Since it varies among racial groups, diversity could also be recognized in these aspects. The arguments of Heard could be evaluated using the four predictors of school achievements.
Parental control varies among racial groups. The main reason is that parents from the minority group, usually, control their child more intensely than whites due to cultural adaptations and strong family ties. For the socialization of the parents, there are various reasons why ethnic groups are more involved than the others. For example, the Hispanic Americans participate in school activities since education is important to them since they seek economic progress that is the reason of their immigration. A strong family and community ties also tend to remove stress from Black adolescents who could help them improve their school performances. Although most of the ethnic groups have equal value for education, adolescents from minority groups, usually, are more inspired in achieving more in school (Heard, 2007, p. 323).
Culture and tradition could help adolescents in performing more actively in school. However, there are aspects of racial groupings that could relate how ethnic groups could affect the adolescent school performances such as family structures and social demographics. In the findings of Heard (2007, p. 344), there are more Hispanic and Black single parents than the whites. This could greatly affect the school functioning of the parents which will eventually reduce their child’s school performances. However, it is also one limitation of the study. It could not conclude that race could determine the adolescent school achievements and attainments. It could only evaluate the factors that could affect the adolescent trajectory on school performances based on ethnic or racial groups (Heard, 2007, p. 345).
Ethnicity and Depression among Adolescents
In a study of Brown et al. (2007, p. 1295), they have concluded that race and ethnicity is an important concept in understanding adolescent trajectories of stress and depression. One of the major reasons is that factors concerning adolescent depression vary among ethnic or racial groups. These factors such as social support and socioeconomic status vary among ethnic groups that made the race as one of the considerations in assessing adolescent depression. Social structures and conditions are one of the main factors for the emergence of adolescent depression. These social structure and conditions also differ from various ethnic groups (Brown et al., 2007, 1295).
The aim of the study is to analyze the depression trajectory of adolescents from the four major ethnic groups in the United States which are white, Hispanic, Asian-American and African American. It also used the data from Add Health which shows that there are depressive symptoms that are more common to a specific ethnic group. The study could be used to analyze how racial variation could be a factor in assessing the depression trajectory of adolescents among ethnic groups.
The study of Brown et al. (2007, 1306) concluded that the symptoms and coping system of depression among adolescents are not equal among ethnic groups. They tried to analyze how these variations occur by evaluating the major depressive factors such as stress, social support, socioeconomic status, and coping system. In their study, they found out that the stress is a major factor for the minority groups unlike for the white Americans. However, they also concluded that the family support is similar with all of the ethnic groups. Although it is evident that there are strong family ties with the minority groups, such as Asian-Americans and Hispanics, social support seems to have a less impact in understanding adolescent depression (Brown et al., 2007, 1307).
The two other factors in evaluating adolescent depression reflect differences among racial groups. The coping system is more evident in the Asian-Americans as compared to other racial groups due to strong family ties and values. Socioeconomic statuses also have an effect for the emergence of adolescent depression. There are more Hispanic families living below the poverty threshold among other ethnic groups which could contribute to a larger number of adolescents with symptoms of depression (Brown et al., 2007, 1307).
Ethnicity and Social Life of Adolescents
The purpose of the study of Kao and Joyner is to examine the differences of inter-racial and intra-racial friendship. Grace Kao and Kara Joyner (2004, p. 557) studied the effect of ethnicity or race on the socialization of adolescents using the statistics from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). They found out that higher-order friends are more likely to occur among the same ethnic or racial groups than the inter-racial relationship. The study shows how race could be a factor for adolescent socialization. They also analyzed how these inter-racial friendships differ from the others. It may be simple to understand that socialization could occur more on the people with the same cultural values. However, it is also important to consider that most of the minority groups have increasing population and its effect on socialization could be familiar (Kao & Joyner, 2004, p. 558).
There are few studies about how ethnicity affects the socialization trajectory of adolescents. In most of the studies, they found out that interracial friendships could occur more often for schools with more activities. However, these studies only focus on the whites and the blacks and neglect other ethnic groups such as Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Even though, most of the studies suggests that the level of relationship is higher with intra-racial friendship with inter-racial friendship. It could be notice with the higher number of activities made by the friends in the same racial identity than friends with different race (Kao & Joyner, 2004, p. 558).
The empirical study of Joyner and Kao (2004, p. 571) shows the same result with the previous studies in the early 1980s. In their analysis, it shows that there are some ethnic groups which prefer intra-racial friendship because they value their relationship among their groups. In the case of Asian-Americans, they value intra-racial relationship because of their culture and tradition (Kao & Joyner, 2004, 571). With these variations, socialization trajectory of adolescents could also be affected. It may not have positive nor negative implications on their social developments, but it will eventually be recognized when they experience the real world which consists of different racial groups.
Ethnicity and Physical Growth among Adolescents
The physical growth of adolescents could be measured or evaluated using the body mass index (BMI). It could be a simple study to analyze the physical characteristics of adolescents from various ethnic groups. However, the social implications of these characteristics could be more valuable and could allow understanding for the variation of ethnicity. One of its roles is the social understanding of obesity which is more prevalent in childhood and adolescents (Danner & Toland, 2012, p. 293).
Toland and Danner (2012, p. 294) studied the relationship of race and ethnicity on the body mass index growth of adolescents. The aim of the study is to determine if race or ethnicity could predict the patterns of the BMI of adolescents. The used the data from the National center of Education Statistics. In their study, they concluded that Hispanic and African Americans are more likely to have an accelerated growth on their BMI than the other ethnic groups. It may not have a specific implication on the physical growth of the adolescent, but it could imply that there are cultural factors on their social growth especially the ones on the obese and malnourished level.
Ethnicity and race could greatly affect several trajectories of adolescent development since it relates to familial and social influences. Cultural values, family ties and ethnic group values could contribute on their social growth in the society that alters their behavior and only be recognized using empirical studies. According to many researches, race and ethnicity comes into consideration since factors affecting these trajectories are also affected by the variations among the ethnic groups. Social demographics are also observable as a major factor in assessing the effects of ethnicity on adolescent trajectories. These trajectories such as sexual behavior, depression, school performances, physical growth and socialization are only some of the possible effects of ethnicity on adolescent development.
Brown, J.S., Meadows, S.O., & Elder Jr., G.H. (2007). Race-Ethnic Inequality and Psychological Distress: Depressive Symptoms from Adolescence to Young Adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 43 (6), 1295-1311. doi: 10.1032/0012-16184.108.40.2065. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uhd.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=f2869cbc-3d28-49d0-b099-d24e7074c46a%40sessionmgr113&hid=116
Danner, F.W. & Toland, M.D. (2012). The Interactive Role of Socioeconomic Status, Race/Ethnicity, and Birth Weight on Trajectories of Body Mass Index Growth in Children and Adolescents. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 33 (3), 293-314. doi: 10.1177/0272431612439937. Retrieved from http://jea.sagepub.com.ezproxy.uhd.edu/content/33/3/293
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Kao, G. & Joyner, K. (2004). Do Race and Ethnicity Matter among Friends? Activities among Interracial, Interethnic, and Intraethnic Adolescent Friends. The Sociological Quarterly, 45 (3), 557-573. Retrieved from http//www.jstor.org/stable/4120863
Majumdar, D. (2005). Explaining Adolescent Sexual Risks by Race and Ethnicity: Importance of Individual, Familial, and Extra-Familial Factors. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 31 (1), 19-37. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23029708