July 12, 2011 Using incense or lighting a candle may seem like good ways to let go of racial stress, but a recent study found that might not be the case in terms of racial tension among women. In fact, some coping strategies employed by African-American women may actually increase their stress instead of alleviate it, according to a recent study from Psychology of Women Quarterly (published by SAGE on behalf of the Society for the Psychology of Women, Division 35 of the American Psychological Association).
Race-related stress has been studied extensively. This new 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. 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
- Ritual-centered coping, such as lighting a candle
"I expected that higher use of coping efforts would reduce the severity of psychological outcomes associated with individual race-related stress," wrote Tawanda Greer, the study's author. However, the outcomes were surprising. The results showed that the use of one particular method of coping, the use of ritual-centered coping, actually increased stress levels.
"African American women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of race-related stress, given their socially constructed identities as African Americans and as women," wrote Greer. "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."
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- T. M. Greer. Coping Strategies as Moderators of the Relation Between Individual Race-Related Stress and Mental Health Symptoms for African American Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2011; 35 (2): 215 DOI: 10.1177/0361684311399388
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