Race and Social Problems

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 51–62 | Cite as

Goal-Striving Stress and Racial Differences in Mental Health

  • Harold W. NeighborsEmail author
  • Sherrill L. Sellers
  • Rong Zhang
  • James S. Jackson


This study investigated the associations among goal-striving stress, racial related stressors, and mental health. Goal-striving stress was defined as the discrepancy between aspiration for and achievement of a better way of life, weighted by the subjective probability of success, and the level of disappointment experienced if those life goals were not realized. Data are from the National Survey of American Life’s African American (N = 3,570) and non-Hispanic white (N = 891) adult samples. Regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between goal-striving stress and five mental health outcomes: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, psychological distress, and depressive symptoms. After controlling for socio-demographic factors, a personal problems checklist, and racial discrimination, goal-striving stress was significantly related to all mental health measures such that as goal-striving stress increased, mental health worsened. Additionally, the relationship of goal-striving stress to mental health was found to be conditional upon race. Specifically, goal-striving stress had a stronger effect among white Americans than African Americans. Goal-striving stress was associated differentially with lower levels of mental health for black and white Americans. Racial differences in the impact of goal-striving stress suggest a need for analyses exploring resilience and coping in relation to the impact of goal-striving stress on black–white differences in mental health.


Goal-striving stress Racial related stressors Black/white differences in mental health Stress process 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold W. Neighbors
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sherrill L. Sellers
    • 2
  • Rong Zhang
    • 1
  • James S. Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.The Program for Research on Black Americans, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family Studies and Social WorkMiami UniversityOxfordUSA

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