Superwoman Schema: a context for understanding psychological distress among middle-class African American women who perceive racial microaggressions

Joi-Sheree' Knighton, Jardin Dogan, Candice Hargons, Danelle Stevens-Watkins
Ethnicity & Health 2020 September 15, : 1-17
Objective: Current racial mental health disparities among African American women have been attributed to chronic experiences of race-related stressors. Increased exposure to racism in predominately White spaces may increase reliance on culturally normative coping mechanisms. The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between psychological distress, perceived racial microaggressions, and an obligation to show strength/suppress emotions among educated, middle-class African American women. Design: A sample of 243 African American women aged 19-72 years ( M  = 39.49 years) participated in an online study. Participants completed self-report measures of psychological distress (PHQ-8 and GAD-7), racial microaggressions (IMABI), and modified items from the Stereotypical Roles for Black Women (SRBWS) to assess an obligation to show strength/suppress emotions. Factor analyses were conducted to assess the reliability of the obligation to show strength/suppress emotions subscale in our sample. Descriptive statistics, multiple linear regression, and mediation analyses were also conducted to examine variable associations. Results: Statistical analyses revealed educated, middle-class African American women who endorse an obligation to show strength/suppress emotions with perceived racial microaggressions experienced increased psychological distress. Conclusion: Obligation to show strength/suppress emotion may increase risk for psychological distress among African American women who perceive racial microaggressions. Future research and clinical implications are discussed.

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