Discrimination and deviance: racial socialization matters

by Callie Harbin Burt

Institution: University of Georgia
Department: Sociology
Degree: PhD
Year: 2009
Keywords: Racial discrimination
Record ID: 1854388
Full text PDF: http://purl.galileo.usg.edu/uga_etd/burt_callie_h_200908_phd


Recent work has reinvigorated scholarly attention to the criminogenic potential of racial discrimination. This research confirms that experiencing discrimination is a strong predictor of crime and deviance among African Americans. Consistent with Agnew’s general strain theory (1992) and stress models (Pearlin 1989), this research also suggests that negative emotions mediate a portion of the discrimination—deviance link. The present study extends this work and examines not only a social stressor that may lead to deviance, but also cultural adaptations to such structural stress in the form of racial socialization practices and how such practices may moderate the deviance-fomenting effects of racial discrimination. Two forms of caregiver racial socialization are examined: cultural socialization and preparation for bias. I hypothesize that higher levels of racial socialization will compensate for and/or buffer the deleterious effects of discrimination on negative emotions and deviance. African American youths who have been taught about the realities of racial relations in America as well as strategies for coping with racist experiences might be better equipped to deal with the negative emotional and cognitive effects of experiencing discrimination. In the same vein, African American youths who are exposed to African American culture and history who share the successes and supports of the Black community might be better equipped to deal with racist events. I test these hypotheses using self-reports of discrimination from a sample of approximately seven hundred African American youths and their primary caregivers over three waves of data. Results suggest that racial socialization practices are factors that provide resilience against discrimination by diminishing some of its negative effects. Specifically, I find that caregivers’ preparation for bias inculcates competencies that diminish deviant responses to racial discrimination. Cultural socialization, while not diminishing the effects of racial discrimination on distress or deviance, apparently engenders general competencies relevant for adaptive functioning, including decreased distress and deviance. While further research is needed to replicate these findings, the results reported herein represent an important contribution to the literature on patterns of distress and deviance in response to racial discrimination. Among a diverse sample of African American adolescents, racial socialization influences patterns of deviance.