Examining life events, racial identity, and outcomes on substance use in African American adolescents
The thesis analyzes the relation between exposure to negative life events and substance use rates in African American adolescents. Racial identity is examined as a potential defense mechanism against substance use asa result of experiencing cumulative adverse life events. Surveys were administered to a sample of 354adolescents. The majority (n= 314) self-identify as Black/African American and 40 students identify as Black and another racial/ethnic background, ranging from ages 13 to 19. Participants attend a predominantly African American high school located in a large, southern urban city. Overall, results indicatethat as exposure to negative life events increases, rates of alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use increase. Older students also experiment with all substances. Racial identity alone was not found to have statistically significant buffering effects between negative life events and substance use. However, the interaction between racial identity and age and specific substances did result in statistically significant results. Specifically, racial identity trended towards statistical significance for lifetime alcohol use regardless of age. Racial identity was also a statistically significant buffer when negative life events increased; and the dependent variable was marijuana usage in the last 30 days. However, racial identity was not a statistically significant buffer for cigarette use. This thesis concludes by establishing the inherent need for futureresearch centering themental health effects of Black adolescents who disproportionately endure negative life events. It is critical to study the influence of negative life events and subsequentlevels of substance use in African American youth because of the developmental phase of adolescence and thecomplexities of racial background, which leaves them particularly susceptible. Findings from this researchcontribute to literature emphasizing thedire need for theimplementation of better resources and support systemsfor Black adolescents, mitigation of substance use experimentation to combat the onset of substance use disorders and addiction, andreduction of adverse life outcomes for African American adults, specifically in consideration of the astoundingly skewed rates of Black drug-related incarceration in the United States.