Re-examining health disparities among African American women
Black, Angela Rose
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The effects of stressor pile-up, stress-coping behaviors, and role responsibilities on mental and physical health functioning were examined among 747 African American mothers. Using the Mundane Extreme Environmental Stress (MEES) model of Family Stress theory, Black Feminist theory, and Symbolic Interaction theory, direct effects of stressor pile-up and indirect effects of stress-coping behaviors and role responsibilities were tested. Hypotheses were supported. Increased stressor pile-up was directly associated with compromised mental health, and in turn, lowered physical health. Lowered stress-coping behaviors and compromised role responsibilities mediated the link between stressor pile-up and mental health functioning, which in turn negatively influenced African American mothers’ physical health functioning. The association between stressor pile-up and role responsibilities was stronger for women who employed fewer problem-solving strategies and perceived less control over their lives. Group differences emerged as well. In comparison to mothers rearing children alone, alternative models indicated that the influence of stress-coping behaviors on mental health functioning was most salient for mothers who reared children with a romantic partner or spouse. These results provide an empirical basis for understanding the extent to which African American women’s daily role responsibilities and reactions to stress mitigate their health. Future studies should consider examining the multidimensionality of African American women’s roles, particularly their perceptions of the execution and quality of these roles, as it relates to their health functioning.