Better understanding vulnerability to the consequences of discrimination : Externalizing behaviours and social support as moderators between racism, sexism and homophobia and depressive and substance use outcomes

Principal investigator


Aprile Benner, Michèle Déry, Melanie Dirks, Katholiki Georgiades, Geneviève Paquette, Caroline E. Temcheff

Project status:


October 2019 - September 2024


In Canada, the three most common stigmatized identities for adolescents are those based on gender, race/ethnicity and sexuality. Discrimination based on these stigmatized identities (i.e., sexism, racism, and homophobia) increases individual level risk for depressive symptoms and problematic substance use. Not all youth who experience these kinds of discrimination, however, are at risk for depressive symptoms and substance use. This project focuses on externalizing behaviour and social support as two key risk and resilience processes to better understand variation in the consequences of discrimination. This project has two objectives. The first is to use quantitative methods to explore if the links between sexism, racism, and homophobia and depressive symptoms and substance use are moderated by social support and externalizing behaviour, and to test if these associations vary according to sex. This objective will be tested using secondary data analyses of four existing datasets. The second objective employs a mixed-methods approach to examine how sex and gender shape the link between externalizing behaviours and social support and depressive symptom and substance use outcomes. Quantitative analyses with a longitudinal dataset will be complimented with qualitative interviews of 40 youth who will speak to how their gender and sexual identities shape how they are treated by others, and the consequences they feel that this treatment has had for their health and wellbeing. The findings have clinical implications for (1) identifying pockets of vulnerability among youth experiencing discrimination, (2) understanding how social support can be used to protect youth against the consequences of discrimination, and (3) focusing intervention efforts on addressing discrimination among youth with externalizing problems. This project provides a practical framework for addressing the impact of discrimination by identifying factors that serve to augment or mitigate its consequences.

Funding Organization:

Instituts de Recherche en Santé du Canada (IRSC) - Project Grant
Axis 2:
Change the developmental pathways and the trajectories of children who have difficulties due to their individual or environment-level characteristics.