Peer Discrimination, Deviant Peer Affiliation, and Latino/a Adolescent Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms: A Prospective Study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology : the official journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53




OBJECTIVE: U.S. Latino/a adolescents experience high levels of ethnic discrimination, particularly in new immigrant destinations. Due to the salience of peers during adolescence, this study examined how peer discrimination related directly and indirectly, through deviant peer affiliation, to changes in Latino/a adolescents' internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Culture-specific moderators hypothesized to buffer discrimination impacts on adolescent symptomology included Spanish language enculturation and adolescents' social ties to relatives in the family's country-of-origin. METHOD: The sample of 547 Latino/a adolescent participants from the Caminos al Bienestar study (55.4% female; age = 12.8, range = 11-16) was selected at random from middle schools in a large, suburban school district in Atlanta, Georgia. Three time points of survey data spaced roughly 6 months apart were collected during 2018 and 2019. RESULTS: Results from longitudinal structural equation models revealed that peer discrimination was associated indirectly with increased externalizing symptoms, through increases in affiliation with deviant peers ( = 0.05; SE = 0.02; B = 0.02; 95% CI = 0.01, 0.09). We did not observe direct or indirect effects of peer discrimination on changes in internalizing symptoms, and we found no significant protective effects of either Spanish language enculturation or social ties with the country-of-origin. CONCLUSIONS: Ethnic discrimination by peers may lead to deviant peer affiliation and, in turn, increased externalizing behaviors. Future research identifying protective factors that buffer discrimination impacts on deviant peer affiliation is needed to inform the development of interventions that can prevent Latino/a adolescents' externalizing symptoms.


Prevention and Community Health