Psychological Adjustment, Behavior and Health Problems in Multiracial Young Adults

Psychological Adjustment, Behavior and Health Problems in Multiracial Young Adults

University of Maryland, College Park
236 pages

Warren L. Kelley

Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, College Park in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy 2006

This study: (1) examined whether multiracial young adults reported lower levels of well-being relative to their White and monoracial minority peers and whether these outcomes were moderated by college attendance or racial identification; and (2) investigated factors, drawn from Root’s (2003) ecological model of multiracial identity development, during adolescence that could predict better well-being outcomes for young adults. Participants were 18-26 years old and drawn from the Wave III archival data of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Bearman, Jones, & Udry, 1997), a nationally representative school-based probability sample of participants initially surveyed in 1994-1995, with the Wave III follow-up conducted six years later in 2001-2002. Using a subset of 14,644 participants (615 multiracial, 4,686 monoracial minority, and 9,343 White) the multiracial young adults reported statistically higher levels of depression, drug abuse and physical limitations, and lower levels of self worth than their monoracial counterparts. Effect sizes (partial eta squared), however, were so small, varying between .001 and .003, that these statistical findings did not represent meaningful differences. Therefore, the current study found evidence of fewer difficulties of multiracial young adults relative to their monoracial peers, when compared to previous researchers who studied the same sample as adolescents and found consistent patterns of negative well-being (Milan & Keiley, 2000; Udry et al., 2003). In part this may be because previous researchers did not present effect sizes. Using a second subset of 8,978 participants (402 multiracial, 2,617 monoracial minority, and 5,959 White) a two phased, multi-group structural equation model examined the relationship between adolescence and young adulthood factors and found that multiracial participants had the highest path coefficients for depression and living with both biological parents in comparison to their monoracial counterparts. College attendance was found to not change the relationship of multiracial young adults on reported well-being outcomes in comparison to their monoracial counterparts. In the area of multiracial identification, there was no evidence that multiracial young adults who reported their racial category as multiracial versus monoracial exhibited higher well-being outcomes. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.


  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Chapter 1 – Introduction
  • Chapter 2 – Review of the Literature
    • Defining What it Means to be Multiracial
    • Multiracial Identity Models
    • Factors Influencing Well Being and Identity Development
      • Family environment
      • School, Friends and Neighborhood Environments
      • Generational/Societal Acceptance
      • Multiracial Change From Adolescence to Young Adulthood
      • College Experience
    • Adjustment Outcomes in Multiracial Young People
      • Self Esteem
      • Psychological, Behavior and Health Outcomes Using Add Health Data
  • Chapter 3 – Statement of Problem
  • Chapter 4 – Method
    • Design Statement
    • Participants
    • Measures
    • Procedures
  • Chapter 5 – Results
    • Preliminary Analyses
    • Hypotheses 1a and 1b
    • Hypothesis 2
    • Hypothesis 3
    • Additional Analyses
  • Chapter 6 – Discussion
    • Summary
    • Multiracial Young Adults and Well-being
    • Adolescent Predictors of Well-being in Multiracial Young Adults
    • Multiracial Identity Development and Well-being
    • Limitations
    • Implications for Practice
    • Areas of Future Research
  • Appendix A – Add Health Project Description
  • Appendix B – Initial and Final Items
  • Appendix C – Wave I and Wave III Item Comparison
  • References


  1. Comparison Psychological Adjustment, Behaviors and Health/Somatization Significant Findings
  2. Demographic comparisons of retained and removed participants
  3. SEM measurement model fit indices (whole sample Wave I-III subset 8,978)
  4. Summary of Initial and Final Latent Constructs and Factors
  5. M, SD and Intercorrelations among predictor and outcome variables using Wave I-III subset of 8,978 participants
  6. M, SD and Intercorrelations among predictor and outcome variables using Wave I-III subset of 402 multiracial participants.
  7. SEM Single and Multi-group Model Fit Indices
  8. Multi-group Comparisons on Factor Loadings for the Measurement Model
  9. Factor loadings and structural paths released
  10. Racial Identification Change from Wave I to Wave III
  11. Multiracial identification and Wave III dependent factors
  12. College vs. non-college participants compared at Wave I factors
  13. Wave I parental income and Wave III outcome factors – Pearson correlation and simple regression
  14. Race specific categories using Wave III subset of 14,644
  15. Means, Standard Deviations for Wave III outcomes for monoracial groups and selective multiracial groups
  16. Significant ANOVA results shown across Wave III dependent factors for specific multiracial groups


  1. SEM Initial Measurement and Structural Model
  2. SEM Final Measurement and Structural Model
  3. SEM Final Multi-group Structural Model with Path Coefficients

Read the entire dissertation here.

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