Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Jayne E. Stake, PhD


Vetta Sanders-Thompson, Ph.D.

Ann Steffen, Ph.D.

Shielah Clark-Ekong, Ph.D.


Abstract For African-American women, female gender and African-American (AA) ethnicity combine to create experiences of discrimination, discrimination related stress, and mental health issues that are not encountered by individuals who occupy only one of these status variables. Gender and ethnicity also influence socioeconomic status, an additional variable affecting the experiences and issues that AA women uniquely encounter. The first goal of this study was to examine the ways in which the combined social statuses of gender and ethnicity influence the discriminatory experiences and mental health of AA women. The second goal was to determine the ways in which AA women¿s self-reported personal experiences with discrimination affect their mental health. The third goal was to examine how these relationships vary between AA women and individuals who share only one of their social status variables: European American (EA) women and AA men. The final goal was to determine the contribution of socioeconomic status to these relationships. A community sample of 358 participants was recruited, consisting of 104 AA women, 82 AA men, 97 EA women, and 75 EA men. Participants completed a composite socioeconomic status measure, The Combined Schedule of Sexist and Racist Events, the Satisfaction with Life Scale, and a Symptom Checklist. Results indicated that AAs report more racism and interactive racism and sexism than EAs; and women reported more sexism than men. AA women did not differ significantly from other groups in reported discrimination or mental health. As a group, women reported more psychological distress symptoms than men and AAs reported poorer life satisfaction than EAs. Sexism predicted greater psychological distress symptoms in the total sample, but when AAs and AA women were examined separately, only racism predicted symptoms. SES contributed to life satisfaction but not symptoms, and did not attenuate the roles of sexism and racism in mental health. Preliminary analyses also suggested SES did not contribute to racial and gender group differences in reported discrimination or mental health.

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