Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Mark Whisman

Second Advisor

Eliana Colunga

Third Advisor

Leslie Irvine



Prior research has shown that mental health problems are associated with intimate relationship status and functioning in adolescents. However, little research has been done on the associations between these variables in racial or ethnic minority groups. The present study examined associations between intimate relationship involvement, intimate relationship quality, and psychiatric disorders in a population-based sample of 1,165 African American and Caribbean Black adolescents, aged 13-17 years old. Participants were drawn from the National Survey of American Life – Adolescent Supplement (NSAL-A), which involved a face-to-face interview of adolescents in 2001-2004. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the associations between relationship involvement, positive and negative relationship quality, and 12-month prevalence of common mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders. No associations were obtained between intimate relationship involvement and the prevalence of psychiatric disorders. In comparison, self-reported levels of positive relationship quality were negatively associated with the prevalence of substance use disorders, and self-reported levels of negative relationship quality were positively associated with prevalence of social phobia and any disorder. Comparison of these results with those obtained from samples primarily involving White adolescents suggests that the patterns of associations between relationship involvement, relationship quality, and psychopathology may be different for African-American adolescents relative to other adolescents, and supports the need for continued research on relationship functioning and psychopathology in African-American adolescents.