According to a recent study led by Lori S. Hoggard of the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, African-Americans tend to view racially stressful events and nonracially stressful events similarly. However, they respond differently to each type of stressor. Racial discrimination and prejudice still exist among many different minority populations. The stress of racial tension has been shown to have negative emotional consequences and can lead to anger, frustration, violence, fear, worry, and even shame. African-Americans are often the target of racism, and for young adults who are just developing effective coping strategies, this type of stress can be significantly disturbing. Because young adults in general, and college students in particular, are at increased risk for life stressors, Hoggard chose this segment of the population for her study.
Hoggard recruited 35 African-American college students and had them complete a daily diary for 20 days. She instructed the participants to write down any stressful events that they experienced during the study period and asked them to describe the stressors as either racially motivated or nonracial in nature. She also gathered information from the participants about how they viewed the stressors and how they reacted to them. Hoggard found that in general, the racial stressors and nonracial stressors were viewed similarly. But the students in the study reacted differently to each type of stress.
The racial stressors resulted in more negative coping strategies. “While participants were less likely to use planful problem solving for racially stressful situations compared with the nonracially stressful situations, they were more likely to use avoidance and confrontive coping,” said Hoggard. These results suggest that although stressors may be outwardly perceived as similar, they are internally perceived as different and result in different emotional responses. Hoggard suggests that future work be devoted to disseminating the mechanisms behind these responses, as many of these negative coping strategies can lead to other mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.
Hoggard, L. S., Byrd, C. M., Sellers, R. M. (2012). Comparison of African American college students’ coping with racially and nonracially stressful events. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029437
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