The influence of racial identity and racism-related coping and mental health among Black Americans

2010 2010

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Abstract (summary)

Scholars argue that racial identity and the strategies used to cope with racism moderate the relationship between perceived racism and mental health outcomes. To date few studies have examined the efficacy of generic strategies for coping with racism on mental health for Black Americans, and none have explored the combined influence of racial identity and racism-related coping. This study sought to examine the combined influence of racial identity status attitudes and the specific strategies used by Black Americans to cope with racism on mental health outcomes.

Participants in the study were 233 Black adults who completed an on-line survey that included a series of Racial Incident Questions and the Racism-Related Coping Scale, both of which were developed for the current study; the Black Racial Identity Attitude Scale (Helms & Parham, 1990); the Anxiety, Depression, Hostility, Interpersonal Sensitivity, and Somatisation scales of the Brief Symptom Inventory (Derogatis, 1983); the Well-Being Index of the Mental Health Inventory (Veite & Ware, 1983); and a Personal Demographic Sheet.

Principle components analysis and preliminary psychometrics of the Racism-Related Coping Scale provided evidence of construct validity, indicating that Blacks use specific strategies to cope with racism that are distinct from generic coping strategies. MANOVAs found significant differences in the coping strategies targets used in different locations and perpetrators. Regression Analysis indicated that Empowered Action, Spiritual, Hypervigilant and Constrained Resistance strategies predicted psychological distress and well-being, and Internalization racial identity attitudes moderated the relationship between Constrained Resistance and distress.

Cluster analysis identified four groups that differed significantly with respect to the patterns of racial identity attitudes and coping strategies employed. Although the groups did not differ significantly in well-being, the group with predominantly high Internalization status attitudes and use of primarily empowered resistance strategies had the least psychological symptoms. These results suggest that the strategic and judicious use of multifaceted, but predominantly resistance-focused set of coping strategies, tempered by attitudes that reflect an awareness and understanding of the complexity of racism was associated with the least psychological symptoms. Overall, the results indicate that the relationship between racial identity attitudes, racism-related coping and mental health is complex.

Indexing (details)

African American Studies;
Black studies;
Counseling Psychology
0296: African American Studies
0325: Black studies
0603: Counseling Psychology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Psychology; African Americans; Black Americans; Coping; Mental health; Racial identity
The influence of racial identity and racism-related coping and mental health among Black Americans
Forsyth, Jessica M.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 71/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Carter, Robert T.
Columbia University
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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