This dissertation examines the association between adolescent romantic relationships and psychological well-being. I argue that heterosexual adolescents with different relationship statuses (dating and non-dating) and in different relationship types (interracial and same-race) tend to experience disparate levels of stress and support from their parents, friends, and school contexts. Differences in exposure to social stressors and the availability of coping resources, in turn, contribute to disparities in an adolescent's psychological well-being by their romantic relationship statuses and relationship types. As such, I use the theoretical framework of the stress process model to test several hypotheses to explain differences in adolescent well-being as indicated by their self-reported depression, anxiety, and positive well-being scores.
For this research I hypothesized that: (1) there are relationship status differences in adolescents' psychological well-being such that same-race daters and interracial daters will have lower levels of psychological well-being in terms of higher self-reported scores for symptoms of depression, anxiety, but lower positive well-being, than their non-dating peers; (2) there are relationship type differences in adolescent well-being such that interracial daters will report lower levels of psychological well-being than their peers in same-race relationships; (3) disparities in psychological well-being by relationship status and relationship type will be explained by differences in the quality of parent-child relationships, friendship networks, and school-related factors; (4) the association between relationship type and psychological well-being will vary by race and gender; and (5) the school-related factors that affect psychological well-being will vary for same-race and interracial daters.
In Chapter 2, I find that both same-race and interracial daters report higher scores for symptoms of depression and anxiety than their non-dating peers. Interracial daters also report higher scores for symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as lower levels of positive well-being than their counterparts in same-race relationships. Emotional family support and the quality of parent-child relationships partially mediate the disparities in symptoms of depression and anxiety by both relationship status and type. There are no gender differences, but I found racial disparities that reveal Asians are less adversely affected by interracial dating than are Whites.
In Chapter 3, I found that compared to non-daters, adolescents in same-race and interracial partnerships report significantly higher scores for symptoms of depression and anxiety, but interracial daters also report lower levels of positive well-being. Moreover, interracial daters report more symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as lower levels of positive well-being than same-race daters. Friendship network structure and integration partially explain disparities in well-being by relationship status and type. Well-being does not vary, however, by the individual's race or gender.
Finally, the findings in Chapter 4 reveal that, averaged across schools, both same-race and interracial daters report higher scores for symptoms of depression and anxiety than the average non-dating adolescent. There are also relationship type differences across schools that reveal interracial daters score higher for symptoms of depression and anxiety but have lower levels of positive well-being than the average same-race relationship. School-related factors do little to explain disparities in well-being across schools by relationship status and relationship type. Well-being for same-race and interracial daters, however, are affected by different aggregate-level school factors.