Coping strategies of race-related stress among African American Women may actually increase stress

Coping strategies as moderators of the relation between individual race-related stress and mental health symptoms for African American women

From Psychology of Women Quarterly

Race-related stress has been studied extensively. This research looks at the various methods of coping with the effects of race-related stress among African-American women to determine whether the use of various methods of coping were more successful. It reveals how coping strategies may actually increase their stress instead of alleviate it. Coping strategies were categorized as: collective-centered coping, such as asking for advice from elders or the community, cognitive-emotional coping, such as seeking out people who could draw out emotions like laughter or happiness, spiritual-centered coping, such as prayer and ritual-centered coping, such as lighting a candle. The results showed that the use of one particular method of coping, the use of ritual-centered coping, actually increased stress levels. The author observes that “African American women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of race-related stress, given their socially constructed identities as African Americans and as women. Thus, it is critical to the overall well-being of African American women that coping efforts are identified that assist in alleviating the psychological impacts associated with race and the intersection of race- and gender-related challenges.”


The purpose of this investigation was to examine coping strategies as moderators of the relationship between individual race-related stress and mental health symptoms among a sample of 128 African American women. Coping strategies refer to efforts used to resolve problems and those used to manage, endure, or alleviate distress. Culture-specific strategies were examined in the current study (i.e., efforts that are commonly used by members of a cultural group). Culture-specific efforts were hypothesized to influence the severity of psychological symptoms associated with individual race-related stress, such that frequent use of culture-specific efforts would lessen the strength of the relationship between race-related stress and psychological symptoms. Moderated hierarchical regression analyses revealed that high use of ritual-centered strategies to address race-related stress was related to severe anxiety and interpersonal sensitivity. No moderating effect of coping strategies was found for depression, obsessive-compulsion, and somatization symptoms. The findings suggest that African American women may inadvertently utilize coping efforts that serve to increase the severity of psychological symptoms related to individual race-related stress. Mental health professionals should explore underlying emotions related to coping efforts utilized to address race-related stress among African American women.

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Article details
Greer, T. (2011). Coping Strategies as Moderators of the Relation Between Individual Race-Related Stress and Mental Health Symptoms for African American Women Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35 (2), 215-226 DOI: 10.1177/0361684311399388

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