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Childhood Experiences and the Associations with Depression and Well-Being among Ethnic Minority Adolescents

Dan Wang, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Depression and well-being are two essential adolescent socioemotional outcomes. Childhood experiences in multiple contexts are associated with these two outcomes. Yet several questions remain unclear due to a lack of research focusing on ethnic minority populations, using a dimensional approach, and analyzing longitudinal data. The current study examined whether and how different combinations of adverse and positive childhood experiences in family, school, and neighborhood are related to depression and well-being of ethnic minority adolescents. The study proposed five research questions examining the effects of childhood experiences, the poverty context, and the processes of childhood experiences affecting adolescent outcomes. The study drew longitudinal data of 2,675 ethnic minority adolescents from the Fragile Family and Child Wellbeing Study and conducted latent class (or profile) analysis, moderation analysis, and mediation analysis. The results revealed four adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) classes (i.e., Multiple High Risks, Abused Children, Vulnerable Parents, and Multiple Low Risks) and two positive childhood experiences (PCEs) profiles (i.e., Uninvolved Students and Attached Students). Three ACEs classes (i.e., Multiple High Risks, Abused Children, and Vulnerable Parents) predicted high risks of depression, and one ACEs class (i.e., Multiple High Risks) predicted low well-being. The Attached Students PCEs profile was related to a low likelihood of depression. PCEs profile memberships moderated associations between ACEs classes and adolescent outcomes. Poverty was an important context differentiating the relations between childhood experiences and adolescent depression. Both parenting stress and self-esteem mediated the associations between ACEs classes and depression, but only the former mediated the effects of ACEs classes on adolescent well-being. The findings suggest understanding childhood experiences in different combinations and examining their effects on adolescent outcomes. The results provide empirical evidence for policymakers to reduce poverty for ethnic minority families. The study also calls for universal prevention and interventions that increase school support and targeted prevention and interventions that help parents cope with emotional stress and parenting stress and adopt positive parenting practices.

Subject Area

Psychology|Social research|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Wang, Dan, "Childhood Experiences and the Associations with Depression and Well-Being among Ethnic Minority Adolescents" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29259840.