Discrimination as a Frame-of-Reference Effect in Overlapping Friendship Communities of Ethnically Diverse Youth

Baljinder K. Sahdra, Joseph Ciarrochi, Philip D. Parker, Rhonda Craven, Robert Brockman, Emma K. Devine, James Conigrave, Doris F. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To what extent is the frame of reference of overlapping friendship communities important for young people’s feelings of discrimination and subjective well-being? That is, do youth feel better or worse to the extent that they feel less or more discrimination than their friends? Method: 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 socioeconomic status public schools in New South Wales, Australia. Cross-sectional data were collected to measure felt discrimination, mental health, subjective well-being, 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 well-being. Results: When the community level discrimination was low, there was no well-being 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 well-being than individuals who themselves felt high discrimination. Conclusions: We provide evidence for a frame-of-reference effect involving discrimination. Individuals’ relative standing in their friendship communities with high group-level discrimination reliably predicted the individuals’ well-being levels, regardless of ethnicity. The results highlight the importance of identifying overlapping friendship communities for understanding the dynamics of discrimination and well-being of ethnically diverse youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Context
  • Discrimination
  • Friendship communities
  • Indigenous psychology
  • Well-being
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Social Support
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Peer Group
  • Male
  • Prejudice
  • Friends/ethnology
  • Ethnicity/psychology
  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Students/psychology
  • Australia
  • Schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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