To investigate racial and ethnic differences in the protective effects of parental education and marital status against adolescents’ depressed mood and suicidal attempts in the U.S. As proposed by the Marginalization-related Diminished Returns (MDRs), parental education generates fewer tangible outcomes for non-White compared to White families. Our existing knowledge is very limited regarding diminished returns of parental education and marital status on adolescents’ depressed mood and suicidal attempts. To compare racial groups for the effects of parental education and marital status on adolescents’ depressed mood and suicidal attempt. This cross-sectional study included 7076 non-Hispanic White or African American 8-11 years old adolescents from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The independent variables were parental education and marital status. The main outcomes were depressed mood and suicidal attempts based on parents’ reports using the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (K-SADS). Age and gender were the covariates. Race was the moderator. Logistic regression was used to analyze the ABCD data. Overall, parental education was associated with lower odds of depressed mood (OR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.67–0.99; p
= 0.037) and having married parents was associated with lower odds of suicidal attempts (OR = 0.50; 95% CI = 0.28–0.91; p
= 0.022). In the pooled sample, we found interaction terms between race with parental education and marital status on the outcomes, suggesting that the protective effect of having married parents against depressed mood (OR = 1.54; 95% CI = 1.00–2.37; p
= 0.048) and the protective effect of having married parents against suicidal attempts (OR = 6.62; 95% CI = 2.21–19.86; p
= 0.001) are weaker for African Americans when compared to Whites. The protective effects of parent education and marital status against depressed mood and suicidal attempts are diminished for African American adolescents compared to White adolescents. There is a need for programs and interventions that equalize not only socioeconomic status (SES) but also the marginal returns of SES for racial minority groups. Such efforts require addressing structural and societal barriers that hinder African American families from translating their SES resources and human capital into tangible outcomes. There is a need for studies that can minimize MDRs for African American families, so that every individual and every family can benefit from their resources regardless of their skin color. To achieve such a goal, we need to help middle-class African American families secure tangible outcomes in the presence of SES resources.
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