, Volume 62, Issue 1-2, pp 48-59

Discriminatory Experiences and Depressive Symptoms among African American Women: Do Skin Tone and Mastery Matter?

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We apply structural equation modeling techniques to data from the National Survey of American Life to investigate the relationship between perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms among African American women ages 18–98 years (N = 2,299). In addition, we evaluate whether or not personal mastery accounts for the intensity of African American women’s psychological response to discrimination and whether or not exposure to discrimination varies by skin complexion. Findings reveal that discrimination is a major threat to African American women’s mental health. They are vulnerable to discrimination, in part, because discrimination undermines their beliefs in mastery making them less psychologically resilient. Experiences of discrimination do not differ by complexion. We conclude that complexion does not matter, but mastery does.

Data collection on which this study is based was supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH; U01-MH57716).