THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS: AN EXAMINATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN COUPLES

Open Access
Author:
Wickrama, Thulitha Kandauda Arachchige
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
August 02, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Chalandra M Bryant, Committee Chair
  • Alan Booth, Committee Member
  • David R Johnson, Committee Member
  • Laura Klein, Committee Member
  • Susan Marie Mc Hale, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Mastery
  • Self-Esteem
  • Depressive Symptoms
  • Racial Discrimination
  • SES
  • African American
Abstract:
An increasing number of studies have documented African Americans’ experiences with racial discrimination. These experiences have been shown to have implications for African Americans’ well-being in several ways. Using a sample of 305 African American couples residing in a southern state, the present study systematically investigated the association between experiences with racial discrimination and mental health, using structural equation modeling. The stress process theory suggests that, not only can self-concept mediate the association between stressful experiences and mental health, but it may also moderate the association between stress and mental health. Consistent with the stress process theory, experiences with racial discrimination were expected to be directly associated with the mental health of African Americans. In addition, the associations between experiences with racial discrimination and depressive symptoms were expected to be mediated by self-concept and moderated (buffered) by both self-concept and socioeconomic characteristics. More importantly, transactional associations between husbands and wives were expected. The results partially supported the study hypotheses derived from the stress process theory. Experiences with racial discrimination were significantly and positively associated with husbands’ depressive symptoms but not with wives’ depressive symptoms. This association was moderated in the expected direction by self-concept, education, and family income for husbands but not for wives. The hypothesized mediating effect was not supported for husbands or wives. The hypothesis predicting transactional associations between spouses was largely unsupported. However, husbands’ experiences with racial discrimination were associated with their depressive symptoms and their depressive symptoms were, in turn, significantly associated with their wives’ depressive symptoms.