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Title page for ETD etd-03192015-180417


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Thomas, Courtney Sinclair
Author's Email Address courtney.s.thomas@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03192015-180417
Title More than Discrimination: The Significance of Race-Based Stress and Racial Identity for the Mental Health of Black Americans
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
R. Jay Turner Committee Chair
Kris Marsh Committee Member
Laura Carpenter Committee Member
Tyson Brown Committee Member
Keywords
  • mental health
  • stress
  • African Americans
  • blacks
  • discrimination
  • racial identity
Date of Defense 2015-02-27
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Despite a large literature outlining the significance of racial discrimination for risk of poor health and well-being among black Americans, there is a growing recognition that current measures fail to reliably and comprehensively capture forms of discrimination relevant to a range of experiences. Much of the research in this area has focused almost exclusively on the implications of overt, discriminatory or unfair treatment due to race, neglecting the potential health effects of more covert, ambiguous, and ambient forms of race-based stress. As such, the goal of this dissertation is to assess the significance of various components of the black American stress experience—social contexts, stressors, and psychosocial resources—for variations in mental health within this population. Using a representative community sample of black women and men from the Nashville Stress and Health Study, this dissertation encompasses three studies:

Study #1: Dealing with the Ambiguity: The Significance of Ambiguous Discrimination Stress for the Mental Health of Black Americans. This study examines the mental health consequences of ambiguous discrimination stress, considering the hypothesis that this stressor makes an independent contribution to and importantly amplifies mental health risk with more overt forms of discrimination, such as major and daily discrimination, taken into account.

Study #2: Dimensions of Blackness: The Role of Early Life Experiences in the Racial Identity Development of Black Adults. This study considers dimensions of black racial identity, investigating how early life factors such as exposure to early trauma and major discrimination, as well as racial composition of childhood neighborhood and school, may impact the development of black identity and its effect on mental health in adulthood.

Study #3: The Stress of Representation: Mental Health Consequences of Racial Composition in Work and Neighborhood Contexts. This study examines the independent and combined mental health effects of the racial composition of individuals’ neighborhoods and workplaces, assessing the extent to which racial composition conditions individuals’ exposure to social stressors and coping resources.

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