Category: Dissemination / Implementation
Skin color satisfaction has long been a topic of importance for African Americans. As far back as slavery days, a preference for lighter vs. darker skin is associated with less discrimination and more privilege (Hall, 1992; Keith & Herring, 1991). This concept holds true in today’s society as well. Harrison and Thomas (2009) found African Americans of a lighter skin tone were preferred and more likely recommended for hire than their darker-skinned counterparts. Perceived discrimination impacts self-esteem and ethnic identity. Simpson and Yinger (1985) found African Americans who experienced frequent encounters of perceived discrimination reported lower levels of self-esteem. In terms of ethnic identity, Harvey et al. (2005) and Coard et al. (2001) found African Americans with darker skin tones had higher racial identity. In contrast, Okazawa-Rey et al. (1987) found darker skinned women are perceived as less attractive and experience lower self-esteem. Robinson and Ward (1997) found similar results suggesting a positive correlation between skin tone satisfaction and self-esteem for men and women. Given the interrelatedness of skin color satisfaction, ethnic identity, racist events, and self-esteem, the aim of the current study was to examine if skin color satisfaction, ethnic identity, and racist events predict self-esteem among African American college students.
Participants were 206 (134 women, 72 men) African American college students whose ages ranged from 18-54. Participants completed the following measures in an online survey: the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the Multi-Ethnic Identity Measure, the Skin Tone Satisfaction Scale, and the Schedule of Racist Events.
A multiple linear regression analysis was calculated to predict self-esteem scores based on racist events, ethnic identity, and skin tone satisfaction. Consistent with hypotheses, all predictors were significant. Racist events accounted for 2.8% of the variance in self-esteem scores, F(1,206) = 5.87, p = .016. Additionally, skin tone satisfaction accounted for 3.0% of the variance, F(2,206) = 3.14, p = .045. Finally, ethnic identity accounted for an additional 10.5% of the variance, F(3,206) = 7.98, p < .01.
Experiences of racism, skin color satisfaction, and ethnic identity significantly predict self-esteem. These findings can provide clinicians who work with African American clients presenting to therapy with self-esteem concerns a foundation for raising self-esteem. Specifically, the clinician and client can collaboratively identify ways the client can increase their ethnic identity and become more accepting of their skin tones to potentially increase self-esteem. In addition, preventative programs aimed at self-esteem development can include ethnic identity development as a component.