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Title page for ETD etd-03232018-145554

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Hearne, Brittany Nicole
URN etd-03232018-145554
Title Should We Take the Next Step? Romantic Relationships and the Consequences for Self-concept and Health by Race, Gender, and Educational Attainment
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
C. André Christie-Mizell Committee Chair
Laura M. Carpenter Committee Member
Richard N. Pitt Committee Member
Richard T. Serpe Committee Member
Tyson H. Brown Committee Member
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Romantic Relationships
  • Educational Attainment
  • Self-esteem
  • Mastery
  • Depressive Symptoms
  • Self-rated Health
Date of Defense 2018-03-16
Availability restricted
Across three interconnected studies, I use cross-sectional (Portraits of American Life Survey; 2012; N = 668) and longitudinal data (National Survey of Youth – Young Adults sample; 1994-2010; N=4,520) to analyze the associations among romantic relationships, self-concept, and health by race, gender, and educational attainment. I incorporate conceptual elements from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including critical race theory, the stress process framework, and the life course perspective. In the first study, I examine how racial discrimination and racial salience impact the odds of marriage for blacks compared to whites. In the second and third studies, I analyze how four romantic relationship statuses (i.e., single, monogamously dating, cohabiting, and marriage), during the transition to adulthood, impact self-concept and health for blacks and whites by gender. Further, I consider whether and how educational attainment moderates the effects of romantic relationship status on self-concept and health.

Findings in the first chapter indicate that perceived racial discrimination is associated with increased odds of marriage for whites. In the second study, compared to white women, black women have higher self-esteem and mastery across relationship status and education. Compared to white men, within each relationship status, black men report higher self-esteem across education but similar or lower mastery at lower than average levels of educational attainment. The findings from the third study show that dating and single, black and white, women and men report more depressive symptoms than white married people. Black and white unmarried women have a higher probability of reporting poor health than white married women.

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