Polyvictimization, income, and ethnic differences in trauma-related mental health during adolescence

Arthur R. Andrews, Lisa Jobe-Shields, Cristina M. López, Isha W. Metzger, Michael A.R. de Arellano, Ben Saunders, Dean G. Kilpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to investigate ethnic differences in trauma-related mental health symptoms among adolescents, and test the mediating and moderating effects of polyvictimization (i.e., number of types of traumas/victimizations experienced by an individual) and household income, respectively. Methods: Data were drawn from the first wave of the National Survey of Adolescents-replication study (NSA-R), which took place in the US in 2005 and utilized random digit dialing to administer a telephone survey to adolescents ages 12–17. Participants included in the current analyses were 3312 adolescents (50.2 % female; mean age 14.67 years) from the original sample of 3614 who identified as non-Hispanic White (n = 2346, 70.8 %), non-Hispanic Black (n = 557, 16.8 %), or Hispanic (n = 409, 12.3 %). Structural equation modeling was utilized to test hypothesized models. Results: Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic participants reported higher levels of polyvictimization and trauma-related mental health symptoms (symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression) compared to non-Hispanic Whites, though the effect sizes were small (γ ≤ 0.07). Polyvictimization fully accounted for the differences in mental health symptoms between non-Hispanic Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites, and partially accounted for the differences between Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites. The relation between polyvictimization and trauma-related mental health symptoms was higher for low-income youth than for high-income youth. Conclusions: Disparities in trauma exposure largely accounted for racial/ethnic disparities in trauma-related mental health. Children from low-income family environments appear to be at greater risk of negative mental health outcomes following trauma exposure compared to adolescents from high-income families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1223-1234
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 31 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Ethnic minority issues
  • Health disparities
  • PTSD
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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