Background: Non-Hispanic Black (NHB) youth are at a higher risk of high-risk behaviors compared to non-Hispanic White (NHW) youth. Some of this racial gap is shown to be due to weaker effects of parental educational attainment on reducing the prevalence of behavioral risk factors such as impulsivity, substance use, aggression, obesity, and poor school performance for NHBs, a pattern called Minorities’ Diminished Returns. These diminishing returns may be due to lower than expected effects of parental education on inhibitory control. Aim: We compared NHW and NHB youth for the effect of parental educational attainment on youth inhibitory control, a psychological and cognitive construct that closely predicts high-risk behaviors such as the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Methods: This was a cross-sectional analysis that included 4188 youth from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The independent variable was parental educational attainment. The main outcome was youth inhibitory control measured by the stop-signal task (SST), which was validated by parent reports on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Results: In race/ethnicity-stratified models, high parental educational attainment was associated with a higher level of inhibitory control for NHB than NHW youth. In the pooled sample, race/ethnicity showed a statistically significant interaction with parental educational attainment on youth inhibitory control suggesting that high parental educational attainment has a smaller boosting effect on inhibitory control for NHB than NHW youth. Conclusion: Parental educational attainment boosts inhibitory control for NHW but not NHB youth. To minimize the racial gap in youth brain development, we need to address societal barriers that diminish the returns of family economic and human resources, particularly parental educational attainment, for racial and ethnic minority youth. Social and public policies should address structural and societal barriers such as social stratification, segregation, racism, and discrimination that hinder NHB parents’ abilities to effectively mobilize their human resources and secure tangible outcomes for their developing youth.
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