Discrimination and Mental Health Outcomes among Underrepresented Students: The Role of Sense of Belonging at Predominately White Institutions (PWIs)

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0003-0663-8892
Freire, David, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hurd, Noelle, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

In this study, we explored the potential for an individual’s sense of belonging to serve as an indirect pathway that could explain the noxious effects of discrimination on mental health outcomes among underrepresented college students at a predominantly White institution (PWI). Students (N = 308; 68% female) were eligible to participate if they identified as a member of a historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group, if their families were economically disadvantaged, and/or if they identified as a first-generation college student. Data were collected over three time points during students’ first three academic years attending a PWI. We explored the potential for sense of belonging to serve as an indirect pathway between perceived experiences of discrimination and student depressive symptoms and experienced stress. Bootstrapped confidence intervals of the standardized indirect effect indicated that discrimination at time one indirectly predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms and perceived stress at time three via a lowered sense of belonging at time two. These results suggest that underrepresented students’ sense of belonging at a PWI may explain some of the relationship between students’ experiences of discrimination and negative mental health outcomes. Further exploration of the results and practical implications are discussed.

MA (Master of Arts)
Discrimination, Belonging, Underrepresented, Depression, College
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