Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology


School Psychology



First Advisor

Lisa L. Harlow


Perceived discrimination is an important social determinant of mental and behavioral outcomes among adolescent populations. Research has found associations between perceived discrimination and increases in internalizing symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, as well as increases in a number of negative behavioral outcomes, including substance use, delinquent behavior, and HIV risk behaviors (e.g. multiple sexual partners and substance use during sex). There is a gap in the research examining how experiences of perceived discrimination impact substance use and HIV risk behaviors among more at-risk youth, such as juvenile offenders. Court Involved Non-Incarcerated (CINI) juveniles participate in substance use and sexual risk behaviors at high rates, similar to youth that are detained or incarcerated, but are less likely to have access to mental, behavioral, and health treatment options while in the community. This study aimed to assess the relationship between perceived discrimination, internalizing symptoms and substance use and HIV risk behaviors among this at-risk population.

Three hundred and fifty six CINI youth were recruited from the Juvenile Intake Department of a family court system in the northeast, as a part of an ongoing, prospective cohort study. In order to assess HIV risk, 139 first-time offenders that endorsed lifetime sexual activity were examined as a part of this study. Preliminary results showed that juvenile report of moderate to high frequency of perceived discrimination was significantly related to an increase in internalizing symptoms (r =.400, p < .0001). Factorial MANCOVA analyses revealed that the interaction effect between level of perceived discrimination and internalizing symptoms was significantly associated with HIV risk behavior [Wilks’ λ = .878, F (6, 222) = 2.49, p =.024, partial eta squared = .063, power = .829]. Significant univariate main effects for the interaction effect were obtained for number of lifetime sexual partners [F (2, 123) = 5.00, p = .008, partial eta square =.081, power = .805]. For juveniles in the moderate to high discrimination/non-clinically significant internalizing symptoms group the mean number of lifetime sexual partners was 1.71, versus a mean of 9.11 lifetime sexual partners for juveniles in the moderate to high discrimination/clinically significant internalizing symptoms group. Post-hoc tests revealed that the average number of lifetime sexual partners was significantly higher for juveniles reporting moderate/high discrimination and clinically significant internalizing symptoms. Additional factorial MANCOVA and logistic regression analyses did not reveal significant associations between the discrimination by internalizing symptoms interaction effect and other HIV risk or substance use behaviors. Findings from this study call for additional research examining the impact of discrimination on this at-risk population. Increased understanding of the impact of discrimination on high risk behaviors can better inform treatment services for at-risk CINI juveniles.



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