African Americans experience persistent disparities in mental health and intimate relationship adjustment relative to other racial and ethnic groups. There are well-documented associations between individual psychological well-being (PWB) and relationship functioning (RF) in the general U.S. population, but little is known about how these constructs are related among African Americans specifically or how sociocultural stress (e.g., discrimination, adverse residential quality) may impact these associations. A study led by the applicant demonstrated that depressive symptoms and relationship satisfaction are associated over a 1-year span among African American couples and that the nature of these associations differs by discrimination and by gender. The links between PWB and RF found over long time scales (e.g., months to years) likely reflect the accumulation of experiences that occur on a day-to-day basis, but no prior work has examined (a) the associations between PWB and RF measured at the daily level among African Americans or (b) how these daily linkages relate to longer-term psychological distress.
The aims of the current study are to (1) model the cross-day linkages between PWB and RF among African Americans and assess the directionality of the PWB- RF relation, (2) examine the extent to which the PWB-RF relation is moderated by sociocultural stress and gender, and (3) use the linkages between PWB-RF found at the daily level to predict long-term psychological distress. The proposed study will use data collected as part of the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE) substudy of the Midlife in the United States study for which F31 Co-Sponsor Dr. David Almeida is the Project Leader. The NSDE included daily assessments of positive and negative relationship events and positive and negative affect over an 8-day span. Using a subsample of 119 married or cohabitating African Americans, data will be analyzed in a multilevel modeling framework to test the effect of prior day RF on subsequent day PWB as well as the effect of prior day PWB on subsequent day RF (Aim 1). Sociocultural stress (discrimination, adverse residential quality) and gender will be examined as moderators of the PWB-RF cross-day relation (Aim 2). Daily relationship reactivity and daily well-being reactivity will also be tested as predictors of psychological distress a decade later (Aim 3). This project, which directly aligns with the mission of the NIMHD, will help to elucidate daily processes that may contribute to disparities in psychological and relationship health for African Americans and inform interventions designed to improve long-term psychological health and relational outcomes in this population. The applicant will receive multi-disciplinary training from leading experts at Penn State University in the intersection of individual psychological well-being and relationship adjustment, daily stress processes, minority health disparities, and intensive longitudinal data analysis, along with training in manuscript and grant preparation, to prepare her for a career as an independent researcher focused on the well-being of African American families.
Relative to other racial and ethnic groups, African Americans tend to experience more severe and persistent symptoms of psychological distress and more intimate relationship difficulties. This research aims to decrease disparities in African Americans? mental health and relationship quality by investigating the daily linkages between psychological well-being and relationship functioning, the extent to which these linkages depend on sociocultural stress (discrimination, adverse residential quality) and gender, and whether these daily linkages predict long-term psychological distress. Findings will provide new insights into the association between individual well-being and relationship functioning for African Americans that may be used to inform the development of future interventions that simultaneously enhance mental health and relationship quality for this population.