Racial discrimination is a frequent and often pervasive phenomenon in the lives of many African Americans. Research reveals that more than 60 percent African American adults report encountering racial discrimination in their lives. Frequent experiences with racial discrimination appear to come with some cost to the psychological and physical well-being of African Americans. Indeed, racial discrimination has been consistently implicated in mental health and physical health outcomes for African Americans. Although most of the previous studies linking racial discrimination to measures of mental health have utilized cross-sectional data, recent longitudinal research suggests a causal link between the frequency of perceived racial discrimination and psychological distress such that experiences of racial discrimination leads to subsequent distress. There is also evidence linking racial discrimination to Cardiovascular (CV) activity and physical health outcomes among African Americans. Importantly, not all African Americans are impacted equally by discrimination. One potential source for this differential vulnerability is racial identity. Racial identity is defined as that part of the person's self-concept that is related to her/his membership within a race. The goal of this project is to determine how racial identity attitudes influence appraisal and coping with racial hassles in African American students' everyday lives, whether these students appraise and cope differently with racial and nonracial stressors, and whether racial stressors have a more negative effects on students' mood and cardiovascular activity compared to nonracial stressors. This research project uses mixed-methodologies and consists of five interrelated studies that will explicate the processes by which college students' racial identity attitudes and situational factors interact to influence how they appraise and cope with racial hassles in their everyday lives.

The broader impacts of this research are evident in that it will shed light on the physiological implications of racial discrimination that have been linked to broader racial disparities in educational achievement and attainment as well as well being and health for African Americans. The research conducted within this project will also provide an opportunity for students from underrepresented groups to gain greater exposure to psychological research as research assistants and study participants, and will provide a valuable training experience for a number of undergraduate and graduate students.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Sally Dickerson
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor
United States
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