Social Integration and Mental Health Promotion: A Study of Black Adolescents
The relationship between adolescent social contexts and their mental health has not been well investigated, particularly in the lives of Black adolescents. Within the available literature, how family, school, and religious contexts foster better mental health in adolescents is even less explored. Statistics on the prevalence of adolescent mental disorders necessitate a comprehensive approach that moves beyond an emphasis on pathology to a focus on fostering mental health. As mental health promotion has received the least amount of scientific attention, and knowledge about Black adolescent mental health is lacking, the purpose of this study is to explore whether adolescent social contexts positively impact the mental health of Black adolescents, using a Durkheimian theoretical framework. The present study is a secondary analysis of the National Survey of American Life-Adolescent (NSAL-A), a national probability sample of 1170 African American and Caribbean Black adolescents. The NSAL-A is characterized as a complex sample survey based on the use of a stratified and clustered sample design, along with sample weights, to obtain the nationally representative sample. The study hypothesizes that family, school, and religious integration will be positively related to mental health in Black adolescents, while accounting for significant demographic variables. Mental health is defined by indicators of both positive and negative aspects of psychosocial well-being. Structural equation modeling is used to investigate the relationships between the social integration and mental health latent variables. The findings reveal that integration into family, school, and religion was important for Black adolescent mental health. Greater family and school integration fostered better psychosocial well-being and protected against lower psychosocial well-being. Both higher religious commitment and lower religious involvement significantly predicted better psychosocial well-being; the latter, however, was an unexpected finding. Neither religious commitment nor religious involvement was significantly related to lower psychosocial well-being. The results of the study contribute to the mental health research literature for Black adolescents and can inform the development or enhancement of social work direct practice or program level interventions targeted to this group.
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