Congratulations to Patricia Louie whose sole-authored article, “Revisiting the Cost of Skin Color: Discrimination, Mastery, and Mental Health among Black Adolescents” was recently awarded the 2019 Best Graduate Student Paper Award from the ASA’s Mental Health Section.
Patricia published the article in Society and Mental Health based on analysis of the National Survey of American Life–Adolescent Supplement. Her broader research program bridges the sociology of race/ethnicity and health sociology to analyze the racialized processes underlying mental and physical health disparities.
In this article, Patricia examines the link between skin tone and mental health in Black adolescents and investigates whether it can be explained by the unequal distribution of both stress exposure and personal coping resources. Her analysis shows that the deleterious mental health consequences of skin tone are observed only among Black adolescents with the darkest skin tone. The article demonstrates how the unequal distribution of both discrimination and mastery make Black Americans with very dark brown skin particularly vulnerable to depression and DSM-IV mental disorder. She found this by treating skin tone as a categorical rather than a liner variable, arguing that findings that treat skin tone as a linear variable may be misleading because they suggest that the relationship between skin tone and health is gradational, where, in fact, it exists only for one category of Black adolescents. As Patricia makes clear in the article, the conclusions we make about health inequality depend on an accurate application of the measures we use.
In awarding Patricia this honour, The ASA’s Mental Health Section is recognizing that this innovative and informative article will stimulate future research on skin tone and mental health, and makes an important contribution to the field.
Citation and Abstract
Louie, Patricia. 2019. “Revisiting the Cost of Skin Color: Discrimination, Mastery, and Mental Health among Black Adolescents.” Society and Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156869318820092
This article investigates the association between skin tone and mental health in a nationally representative sample of black adolescents. The mediating influences of discrimination and mastery in the skin tone–mental health relationship also are considered. Findings indicate that black adolescents with the darkest skin tone have higher levels of depressive symptoms than their lighter skin tone peers. This is not the case for mental disorder. For disorder, a skin tone difference appeared only between black adolescents with very dark skin tone and black adolescents with medium brown skin tone. Discrimination partially mediates the association between skin tone and depression, while mastery fully mediates this association, indicating that the impact of skin tone on depression operates primarily through lower mastery. Similar patterns were observed for disorder. By extending the discussion of skin tone and health to black adolescents and treating skin tone as a set of categories rather than a linear gradient, I provide new insights into the patterning of skin tone and depression/disorder.