Children, Youth, Families & Schools, Nebraska Center for Research on


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Published in Journal of Youth and Adolescence 49 (2020), pp 2441–2458.



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Cultural-ecological frameworks posit that there are harmful effects of social stratification on developmental outcomes. In particular, awareness of aspects of social stratification in society and interpersonal experiences of discrimination, more generally and within specific contexts, may differentially influence outcomes across life stages; yet, few studies have examined the distal effects during adolescence on early adult developmental outcomes. The current study fills this gap by examining distal mechanisms linking adolescents’ (Time 1: ages 13–15) awareness of and perceived general and school discrimination to young adults’ (Time 3: ages 23–25) socioeconomic attainment (i.e., educational attainment, occupational prestige, earned income) through adolescents’ (Time 2: ages 16–18) academic adjustment (i.e., grades and educational expectations). The study also examined variation by adaptive culture (i.e., English and Spanish language use behavior, familism values) and youth gender. Data are from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (N = 755 Mexican-origin adolescents and their foreign-born parents; 51.5% male adolescents; Time 1 M age = 14.20 years). The results revealed that adolescent’s awareness of societal discrimination (Time 1) related to adolescents’ higher grades (Time 2), which, in turn, related to higher educational attainment and occupational prestige in early adulthood (Time 3). For young women, but not men, sources of perceived discrimination within the school context during adolescence related to lower educational attainment. Additional variation by adaptive culture and gender was also found. Implications discussed are related to positive development among Mexican-origin youth in immigrant families.