African American youth who experience racial discrimination are at heightened risk to use drugs as a coping response to distress. Based on the buffer-stress hypothesis, we proposed that parental support would attenuate this effect. Participants were 1,521 African American youth between 4th and 12th grade. As hypothesized, a mediation pathway was observed among racial discrimination, depression symptoms, and drug use. This effect was observed for both genders, although the pathway was partially mediated for males. In addition, as hypothesized, parental support buffered the negative effect of depression symptomatology on drug use as a consequence of discrimination. Our findings highlight the impact racial discrimination has on health outcomes for African American youth and the importance of managing youths’ emotional responses to discrimination. Moreover, findings illuminate the protective role of supportive parenting within the risk model and should thus be considered as an important component within prevention programming for this population of youth.

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Published in Clinical Psychological Science, v. 4, issue 4, p. 718-731.

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This research was supported by NIH award KL2TR001106 to A. Shekhar and Tamika Zapolski and by NIH award DA05312 to Sycarah Fisher.