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Objectives: To what extent is the frame of reference of overlapping friendship communities important for young people’s feelings of discrimination and subjective wellbeing? That is, do youth feel better or worse to the extent that they feel less or more discrimination than their friends? Methods: Participants (N=898; Mage=14.13; SDage=3.37; 46% females; 46% Whites; 20% Indigenous; 34% other minorities) were high school students of three ethnically diverse, low SES public schools in New South Wales, Australia. Cross-sectional data were collected to measure felt discrimination, mental health, subjective wellbeing, social support and nominations of close friends. A state-of-the-art method of clustering links was used to identify overlapping friendship communities, and multiple membership multilevel models were run to examine whether community level discrimination moderated the link between individual level discrimination and wellbeing. Results: When the community level discrimination was low, there was no wellbeing related cost or benefit of individual level discrimination. But when the community level discrimination was high, individuals in those communities who themselves felt low discrimination had better wellbeing than individuals who themselves felt high discrimination. Conclusions: We provide evidence for a frame-ofreference effect involving discrimination. Individuals’ relative standing in their friendship communities with high group-level discrimination reliably predicted the individuals’ wellbeing levels, regardless of ethnicity. The results highlight the importance of identifying overlapping friendship communities for understanding the dynamics of discrimination and wellbeing of ethnically diverse youth.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access


© 2019, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors' permission. The final article will be available, upon publication, via its DOI: 10.1037/cdp0000247