The Costs of Silencing the Self and Divided Self in the Context of Physical Abuse, Racial/Ethnic Identity, and Medication Adherence in Women Living with HIV

Abstract

Racial/ethnic minority status and physical abuse history are risk factors for higher mortality rates and lower adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in women living with HIV (WLWH) in the United States. The current study tested the hypotheses that minority status and physical abuse history might lead women to silence the self (minimize and hide thoughts and feelings in order to avoid relational conflict, loss, and/or abuse) as measured by the Silencing the Self Scale (STSS), and that STSS might mediate and moderate relationships of physical abuse and racial/ethnic minority status with ART adherence. Divided Self (DS; acting in ways inconsistent with inner thoughts and feelings), an STSS subscale, was targeted for study along with the total STSS score. Participants were 513 women from the U.S. Women’s Interagency HIV Study (Mage = 46; 387, 75%, Black; 66, 13%, Hispanic; 60, 12%, White). Multiple logistic regressions indicated that across all racial/ethnic groups, physical abuse history related to higher DS and lower adherence. DS significantly mediated relationships between abuse and adherence. Compared to White women, Black women demonstrated worse ART adherence, but had lower total STSS. Racial/ethnic minority women and women with a physical abuse history who had higher DS had lower adherence than other groups. Results indicate that being a racial/ethnic minority or having a history of physical abuse may increase vulnerability to the deleterious effects of DS on ART adherence, findings that can help inform interventions to decrease health disparities in WLWH.

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Acknowledgements

Data in this manuscript were collected by the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). WIHS (Principal Investigators): Brooklyn WIHS (Howard Minkoff and Deborah Gustafson), U01-AI-031834; Chicago WIHS (Mardge Cohen and Audrey French), U01-AI-034993; Metropolitan Washington WIHS (Seble Kassaye), U01-AI-034994; WIHS Data Management and Analysis Center (Stephen Gange and Elizabeth Golub), U01-AI-042590. The WIHS is funded primarily by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), with additional co-funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH). The current study was largely supported by NIDA.

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Correspondence to Dana Bruck-Segal.

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Bruck-Segal, D., Schwartz, R.M., Cohen, M.H. et al. The Costs of Silencing the Self and Divided Self in the Context of Physical Abuse, Racial/Ethnic Identity, and Medication Adherence in Women Living with HIV. Sex Roles 82, 716–730 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01086-0

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Keywords

  • HIV
  • Silencing the self
  • Divided self
  • Racial/ethnic
  • Abuse
  • Adherence