This study investigated the correlates of childhood depressive symptoms in an African American sample. We included processes that are likely to operate for all children, regardless of race or ethnicity, as well as events and circumstances that are largely unique to children of color. These various constructs were assessed at both the individual and community level. The analyses consisted of hierarchical linear modeling with a sample of 810 African American families living in Iowa and Georgia. Three individual-level variables were associated with childhood depressive symptoms: uninvolved parenting, racial discrimination, and criminal victimization. At the community level, prevalence of both discrimination and criminal victimization were positively related and community ethnic identification was negatively related to depressive symptoms. Further, there was evidence that community ethnic identification and neighborhood poverty serve to moderate the relationship between criminal victimization and depressive symptoms. Overall, the findings underscore the importance of considering factors unique to the everyday lives of the cultural group that is the focus of study, while demonstrating the dangers of a “one model fits all” approach to studying children of color.
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