Perceived racial discrimination and racial discrimination-related stress: Investigating the association of psychological traits with perceived discrimination and the moderating effects of coping strategies

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Racial discrimination is one of the most significant contributors to chronic stress in Blacks. Few researchers have investigated within-group differences in the amount of stress Blacks experience as a result of perceived racial discrimination. The purpose of the current study was to explore the influences of individuals' attributions to prejudice, neuroticism, and ethnic identity on their perceptions of racial discrimination. It was hypothesized that the more racial discrimination individuals reported experiencing throughout their lifetime, the lower their ethnic identity, the higher their levels of neuroticism, and the more frequent their attributions of ambiguous negative incidents to prejudice. It was also hypothesized that adaptive coping strategies would buffer the effects of perceived racial discrimination on discrimination-related stress; whereas, maladaptive coping strategies were expected to exacerbate these same effects. Participants were 299 Black Wayne State University students, faculty, and staff. Eighty-two percent of the sample was women, with the mean age being 26 years. Contrary to what was hypothesized, ethnic identity was significantly positively related to the number of lifetime racist events and no significant relationship was observed between neuroticism and the number of lifetime racist events. As hypothesized, the more racist events participants reported having had over their lifetime, the more likely they were to attribute a situationally ambiguous negative event to prejudice. Although adaptive coping strategies such as social support were expected to buffer the relationship between lifetime racist events and discrimination-related stress, no significant interactions were found. Only the maladaptive coping strategy of substance use moderated the relationship between the number of lifetime racist events and racism-related stress. These findings suggest that past experiences with racial discrimination and how identified individuals are with their ethnicity are more important predictors of perceived racial discrimination than neuroticism and coping strategies. Future studies should utilize an experimental design to investigate the influence of ethnic identity, attributions to prejudice, and neuroticism. Such studies could prove instrumental in exploring which, if any, of these variables could cause an African American to perceive racial discrimination.






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Wayne State University