This article examines the development of African American adolescents’ identity using a relational developmental systems theory framework, which led to the expectation that identity development is linked to both the reduction of risk behaviors and the promotion of African American adolescents’ healthy development. Different personological theories of identity development were discussed, including Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and Marcia’s theory of identity statuses. Developmental systems theory was used to further the literature on African American adolescents’ identity development, by integrating various views of identity development as they pertain to these youth. Furthermore, the formation of many aspects of identity may be an important coping and resilience process for such youth. In addition, directions for future research are discussed, including a consideration of the complexity of diversity that exists within the African American adolescent population, and a call for more longitudinal assessments of identity development is presented.
Existing models of attitude-behavior relationships, including the Health Belief Model, the Theory of Reasoned Action, and the Self-Efficacy Theory, are increasingly being used by psychologists to predict human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related risk behaviors. The authors briefly highlight some of the difficulties that might arise in applying these models to predicting the risk behaviors of African Americans. These social psychological models tend to emphasize the importance of individualistic, direct control of behavioral choices and deemphasize factors, such as racism and poverty, particularly relevant to that segment of the African American population most at risk for HIV infection. Applications of these models without taking into account the unique issues associated with behavioral choices within the African American community may fail to capture the relevant determinants of risk behaviors.
Little research has examined the links between role status changes during the transition to adulthood and sexual behaviors that place African Americans at risk for sexually transmitted infections. Moreover, the mediating processes that explain these links, or protective factors that may buffer young adults from risky sexual behavior, are unknown. African American young adults who had either completed or dropped out of high school (ages 18 to 21, N = 186) provided information regarding their sexual behavior, role status, substance use, peer affiliations, religiosity, and receipt of protective family processes. Anticipated school attendance, part-time rather than full-time employment, and residence in a dorm or barracks rather than with peers or alone were negatively associated with risk behavior. Parenthood was positively associated with risk behavior; affiliation with peers who encourage risky sex partially accounted for this effect. Substance use fully accounted for the effect of part-time versus full-time employment on sexual risk behavior. Protective family processes and religiosity moderated the association of parenthood with sexual risk behavior. Prospective studies on these processes are warranted.
African Americans; demography; educational status; young adult; parents; unsafe sex
HIV- and AIDS-related stigma has been reported to be a major factor contributing to the spread of HIV. In this study, the authors explore the meaning of stigma and its impact on HIV and AIDS in South African families and health care centers. They conducted focus group and key informant interviews among African and Colored populations in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, and Mitchell’s Plain in the Western Cape province. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and coded using NVivo. Using the PEN-3 cultural model, the authors analyzed results showing that participants’ shared experiences ranged from positive/nonstigmatizing, to existential/unique to the contexts, to negative/stigmatizing. Families and health care centers were found to have both positive nonstigmatizing values and negative stigmatizing characteristics in addressing HIV/AIDS-related stigma. The authors conclude that a culture-centered analysis, relative to identity, is central to understanding the nature and contexts of HIV/AIDS-related stigma in South Africa.
HIV/AIDS; stigma; culture; South Africa; PEN-3
This study examined the impact of breathing awareness meditation (BAM), life skills (LS) training, and health education (HE) interventions on self-reported hostility and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) in 121 African American (AA) ninth graders at increased risk for development of essential hypertension. They were randomly assigned to BAM, LS, or HE and engaged in intervention sessions during health class for 3 months. Before, after, and 3 months following intervention cessation, self-reported hostility and 24-hour ABP were measured. Results indicated that between pre- and postintervention, BAM participants displayed significant reductions in self-reported hostility and 24-hour systolic ABP. Reductions in hostility were significantly related to reductions in 24-hour systolic ABP. Between postintervention and follow-up, participants receiving LS showed a significant reduction in hostility but not in 24-hour ABP. Significant changes were not found for the HE group in 24-hour ABP or self-reported hostility, but these change scores were significantly correlated. The implications of the findings are discussed with regard to behavioral stress reduction programs for the physical and emotional health of AAs.
essential hypertension; hostility; behavioral interventions; clinical trial; stress
This study examines the impact of financial strain, social support, and negative interactions on depressive symptoms among African Americans and the role of mastery as a mediator in these relationships. Structural equation modeling and baseline data from the Americans’ Changing Lives Study were used to test these relationships among a sample of African Americans aged 50 to 96 years (N = 583). Findings illustrate the mechanistic pathways whereby financial strain is associated with depressive symptoms. Moreover, the study findings give further credence to the notion that positive and negative aspects of social relationships are distinctive with respect to social status factors, financial strain, and their relationship to depressive symptoms. This research suggests that mastery is an important mechanism linking negative interaction to mental health. The collection of findings provide a number of provocative departures from research conducted primarily using White samples and identifies important areas of intervention with older African Americans.
negative interactions; social support; mastery; mental health
African American adolescent boys underutilize mental health service due to stigma associated with depression. Gaining an increased understanding of how depressed, African American adolescent boys perceive their mental health needs and engage in help-seeking behaviors might play an essential role in efforts to improve their symptoms and access to care. Using a mixed-methods design, this study examined the influence of mental health stigma and social support on depressive symptoms among African American adolescent boys. Findings indicated the protective effects of social support in decreasing depressive symptoms, especially when participants experienced mental health stigma. Results also revealed the pivotal role of family social support over both professional and peer support for participants who struggled with depressive symptoms. The primacy of family support among the sample, combined with the frequent distrust of professionals and peer networks, would indicate that working with families may improve initial identification of depression among African American adolescent boys and decrease their barriers to care.
help seeking; stigma; social support; depression; African American adolescent boys
The present study examined differences in reports of spirituality among African Americans, Caribbean Blacks (Black Caribbeans), and non-Hispanic whites using data from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL). Bivariate analyses indicated that African Americans were most likely to endorse statements regarding the importance of spirituality in their lives (“How important is spirituality in your life?”) and self-assessments of spirituality (“How spiritual would you say you are?”), followed by Caribbean Blacks and non-Hispanic whites. Regression analyses indicated that African Americans and Caribbean Blacks had significantly higher levels of spirituality than did non-Hispanic whites. However, there were no significant differences in spirituality between African Americans and Caribbean Blacks. Separate regression analyses for African Americans and Caribbean Blacks indicated distinctive patterns of sociodemographic and denominational correlates of spiritual sentiments. Findings are discussed in relation to available survey and ethnographic data on self-assessments of spirituality.
Religiosity; Afro-Caribbean; West Indian
The relation between academic race stereotype endorsement and academic self-concept was examined in two studies of seventh- and eighth-grade African Americans. Based on expectancy-value theory, the authors hypothesized that academic race stereotype endorsement would be negatively related to self-perceptions. Furthermore, it was anticipated that the relation between stereotype endorsement and self-perceptions would be moderated by racial centrality. The hypothesis was supported in two independent samples. Among students with high racial centrality, endorsement of traditional race stereotypes was linked to lower self-perceptions of academic competence. The stereotype/self-concept relation was nonsignificant among youth for whom race was less central to their identities. These results confirm the supposition of expectancy-value theory and illustrate the interweaving of group and individual identity with motivational beliefs.
stereotypes; motivation; racial identity; self-concept
Two decades of HIV prevention efforts with men who have sex with men (MSM) have not eliminated the risk of new HIV infections in this vulnerable population. Indeed, current incidence rates in African American MSM are similar to those usually only seen in developing countries. A review of the existing literature suggests that the prevention research agenda for Black MSM could benefit from reframing conceptualization of risk as a function of individual properties to a broad consideration of social and interpersonal determinants. Studies that investigate dyadic and social-level influences on African American MSM’s relationships are needed. This includes research explicating the diversity existing within the categorizations of Black MSM with respect to perceived identity (gay, bisexual, “men on the down low,” “homo thugz”), constructions of masculinity, sexual scripts, sources of social support, and perceived norms and expectations. Recommendations are proposed for a research agenda focusing on linkages between interpersonal and social-structural determinants of HIV risk.
down low; MSM; African American; Black; homo thugz; HIV prevention; social determinants; inequality; mental health
The health disparities that negatively affect African Americans are well-documented; however, there are also many sociocultural factors that may play a protective role in health outcomes. Religious involvement is noted to be important in the African American community and to have a positive association with health outcomes. However, few studies have explained why this relationship exists. This article reports on the development and validation of instruments to assess two proposed mediators of the relationship between religiosity and health for an African American population; perceived religious influence on health behaviors and illness as punishment from a higher power. We used a systematic iterative process, including interviews and questionnaire data from African Americans who provided feedback on item wording. We also solicited input from African American pastors. In a sample of 55 African Americans, the instruments appeared to have strong internal reliability (α = .74 and .91, respectively) as well as test-retest reliability (r = .65, .84, respectively, p < .001). Evidence far construct validity is also discussed, as are recommendations for health disparities research using these instruments.
religion; spirituality; African American; health; measurement; mediators; mechanisms
To explore the different trends of suicide incidence among Blacks and possible contributing factors, the current study compared national epidemiologic data of suicide in the United States from 1981 to 2002. For the first time, period and birth-cohort effects on the incidence trends of Black suicide were evaluated using an age-period-cohort analysis. Cohort effects were found for males and females, suggesting that younger generations of Blacks are at higher risk. If younger cohorts carry their increased suicide risk into later life, then the recent decline in Black suicide rates will be reversed. The results of the current study are only interpretable in terms of group-level characteristics and population suicide rates and not individual-level characteristics. The possible explanation and the implications for prevention and future research are discussed.
Blacks; suicide; trends; cohort effects; APC analysis
This article offers a model that clarifies the degree of interdependence between social ecology and genomic processes. Drawing on principles from nonlinear dynamics, the model delineates major lines of bifurcation involving people's habitat, their family health history, and collective catastrophes experienced by their community. It shows how mechanisms of resource acquisition, depletion, and preservation can lead to disruptions in basic metabolism and in the activity of cytokines, neurotransmitters, and protein kinases, thus giving impetus to epigenetic changes. The hypotheses generated from the model are discussed throughout the article for their relevance to health problems among African Americans. Where appropriate, they are examined in light of data from the National Vital Statistics System. Multiple health outcomes are considered. For any one of them, the model makes clear the unique and converging contributions of multiple antecedent factors.
health; social-ecological factors; genome; African Americans
The purpose of this study was to examine African Americans’ lay beliefs and attributions toward suicide. The Attitudes Toward Suicide Scale, Life Ownership Orientation Questionnaire, Stigma Questionnaire, and Suicide Ideation Questionnaire were administered to 251 undergraduate college students. Beliefs about stigma associated with suicide were comparable across ethnic groups. However, African American college students were significantly less likely than European American college students were to attribute suicide to interpersonal problems and to report that the individual or government is responsible for life. African American students were significantly more likely to report that God is responsible for life. These findings have important implications for suicide risk and also for developing culturally appropriate interventions.
lay theory; suicide; beliefs; attributions; African American
This study investigated whether hopelessness and depression were risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors in African American adolescents and looked at whether religious participation and religious coping protected these students from suicidality. Participants were 212 African American high school students (133 females, 79 males). The results of multiple and logistic regression analyses found that hopelessness and depression were risk factors for suicidal ideation and attempts. Religious coping style was significantly related to suicidal behaviors: Self-directed coping was related to increased hopelessness, depression, and suicide attempts, and collaborative coping was related to increased reasons for living. Gender differences were found in symptoms of depression, religious coping style and religious participation. Results provide additional support for suicide interventions to target hopelessness and depressive symptoms and highlight the importance of examining the role of culturally salient variables, such as religious participation and religious coping style, when developing intervention programs for suicide.
suicide; African Americans; adolescents; religion; religious coping
This article reviews the risk and protective factors associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors in the African American community. The authors provide a brief review of the history of suicide research in African American communities and critique some of the paradigms and underlying assumptions that have made it difficult to address the problem of suicidal behaviors in the African American community. The article also summarizes the articles that are presented in this special edition of the Journal of Black Psychology on suicidality in the African American community.
suicide; African Americans; epidemiology; risk and protective factors
This study examined the role of family functioning and social support in protecting HIV-positive African American women from the adverse psychological consequences associated with deterioration in their CD4 cell count. Participants were 38 African American HIV-positive women who had recently given birth. Results demonstrated that changes in CD4 cell counts were inversely predictive of psychological distress and were moderated by family functioning and social support satisfaction. Women with good family functioning were less affected by changes in their CD4 cell counts, and women with poor family functioning were more emotionally responsive to changes in CD4 cell count. Unexpectedly, women from families where conflicts tended to be clearly laid out and discussed were also more responsive to both changes in CD4 cell counts. Interventions are recommended that increase a client’s social support satisfaction, foster an adaptive level of connectedness to family, and enhance the family’s range of conflict resolution styles.
HIV; family; social support; African American