P2P: Prevalence and Patterning of Mental Disorder in 3 Cohorts of Black and White Americans

September 28, 2018 by Sherri Klassen

Every student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Louie, Patricia and Blair Wheaton. 2018. “Prevalence and Patterning of Mental Disorder in 3 Cohorts of Black and White Americans Through Adolescence.” American Journal of Epidemiology.

Patricia entered the research practicum with an interest in the Black-White patterning of mental health. She had previously learned about the tendency for Black Americans to report similar or better mental health than White Americans in Blair Wheaton’s Mental Health seminar. The work of Dawne Mouzon, in particular, sparked her interest in whether the Black-White patterning of mental disorder would be observed in adolescent populations and across cohorts of Black and White adolescents. In the first year of her PhD, she started the analysis for this project under the supervision of Blair Wheaton. She presented preliminary research findings at The International Social Stress Conference in June 2016.

In September 2016, Patricia enrolled in the Research Practicum and began writing her paper. She appreciates how the practicum provided her the opportunity to present her research findings several times and she is grateful for the helpful comments she received from her practicum supervisors, Ronit Dinovitizer, Candace Krutschnitt, and Melissa Milkie as well as from students in her cohort. Patricia also presented progressive versions of the paper at the American Sociological Association and the Canadian Sociological Association in 2017. The comments received at these conferences helped to refine the manuscript.

In the fall, Patricia and Blair worked closely together preparing the manuscript for submission. Ultimately, they submitted the paper to American Journal of Epidemiology in December 2017, and it was accepted for publication soon after.

Patricia continues to explore the racial patterning of mental health in her work. Currently, Patricia’s research examines racial disparities in mental and physical health using multiple dimensions of race, including skin tone. In addition, she examines the counterbalancing role of social stressors and coping resources in explaining race and skin tone inequalities in health. Patricia uses single-country and cross-national perspectives and a range of quantitative approaches, such as event history models, logistic regression, structural equational models, and linear probability models, to explore the racial patterning of mental health in Canada and the U.S.