Date of Degree

9-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Kevin L. Nadal

Committee Members

Chitra Raghavan

Philip Yanos

David Rivera

Jessie Daniels

Subject Categories

Multicultural Psychology

Keywords

microaggressions, racism, discrimination, health, emotion regulation

Abstract

The current study seeks to explore the relationship between racial microaggressions and physical and mental health. Significant racial disparities in health status persist in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). Previous research asserts that racial discrimination negatively impacts physical health (Williams, Neighbors, & Jackson, 2003), and studies of subtle discrimination support an inverse relationship with mental health (Borrell et al., 2006). The immediate process following the commission of a microaggression and the target’s internal response may have significant consequences for physical and mental health. The purpose of the current study is twofold: (1) to examine the initial internal process of experiencing a microaggression immediately following its commission, and (2) to examine emotion regulation as a potential moderator of the relationship between racial microaggressions and physical and mental health outcomes. Study 1 (N = 207) involved a qualitative and quantitative exploration of the immediate reaction to an ambiguous microaggressive scenario, finding that certain cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses were correlated with previous experience with microaggressions (e.g., anger, normalization, and disengagement were positively correlated with reporting higher rates of prior experience with microaggressions). Study 2 (N = 248) utilized a path analysis to examine different emotion regulation strategies and their relationship to racial microaggressions and health status. Racial microaggressions were found to be negatively associated with 7 of 8 health outcomes assessed, and path analysis indicated that suppression was associated poorer health outcomes. Implications for microaggression theory, education, intergroup relations, and clinical work are discussed.

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