Category: Cultural Diversity / Vulnerable Populations


Emotional Responses as Predictors of Psychological Distress Among Black Americans

Friday, November 17
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom E & F, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: African Americans | Trauma
Presentation Type: Symposium

Due to systemic oppression and racial tensions that are pervasive throughout our society, Blacks are often subject to racism. Landrine and Klonoff (1996) found that 100% of Blacks in their sample had experienced some type of racism in their lifetime. These types of experiences can result in higher levels of depressive symptoms, as well as anxiety symptoms. In an examination of the association between racial discrimination and mental health, Brown et al. (2000) demonstrated that this racial discrimination was related to high levels of psychological distress and leads to adverse mental health outcomes. Additionally, the experiences of racism can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) like symptoms (Pieterse et al., 2012).

A national online study was conducted to examine experiences of and responses to racism among people of color. Using the data from this study, we explored whether emotional response to racism experiences predicts depressive, anxious, and PTSD symptoms among Black Americans.

We planned to investigate the link between emotional responses to racism and depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms among 330 participants, all of whom self-identified as Black adults. Participants completed the following self-report measures: eight single-items measuring anxiety, anger, bitterness, empowerment, energy, frustration, hopelessness, and sadness, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales 21 (DASS-21; Conybeare et al., 2012), and the PTSD Checklist- Civilian Version (PCL-C; Henry & Crawford, 2005). Each measure’s instructions were specifically tied to experiences of racism.

Preliminary analyses found that anger was not a significant predictor of trauma or depressive symptoms, but was a significant predictor of anxiety symptoms [β = .172, t(305) = 2.501, p=.013]. Frustration was found to be a predictor of trauma [β = .281,t(295) = 1.886, = .000], depressive [β = .260, t(304) = 3.810,p=.000], and anxiety symptoms [β = .140, t=2.043,p=.042]. Further analyses will examine anxiety, bitterness, empowerment, energy, hopelessness, and sadness as predictors of trauma, depressive, and anxiety symptoms. Implications of this study may help to inform cognitive behavioral therapy conducted with Black Americans, as it could highlight the importance of emotional regulation. Limitations, future directions, and clinical implications will be discussed.

Shannon Hughley

Doctoral Student
University of Massachusetts Boston


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Emotional Responses as Predictors of Psychological Distress Among Black Americans

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