The Role of Racial Microaggressions, Belongingness, and Coping in African American Psychology Doctoral Students’ Well-being


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The Role of Racial Microaggressions, Belongingness, and Coping in African American Psychology Doctoral Students’ Well-being is a well-researched Art and Humanities Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


Research has indicated that African American undergraduate students experience racial microaggressions within their university contexts, and these experiences are associated with negative outcomes such as symptoms of depression and anxiety (Cokely, Hall-Clark, & Hicks, 2011; Nadal, 2011; Nadal, et al., 2014). Little is known about the experience of microaggressions and their effects on African American doctoral students, particularly those within the field of psychology.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between racial microaggressions, sense of belonging, coping strategies (problem-solving, social support and avoidance), and psychological well-being among African American doctoral students in psychology.

Results revealed that every participant had experienced at least one racial microaggression in their doctoral program within the last six months, with the most common types being related to the environment and assumptions of inferiority. Contrary to hypotheses, results from hierarchical multiple regression analyses suggested that racial microaggressions did not significantly predict psychological well-being in this sample.

Findings also did not provide evidence for social support, problem-solving, avoidance, or a sense of belonging as moderators for the negative impact of microaggressions.

Overall, the results of this study suggest that African American doctoral students in psychology experience racial microaggressions, but questions remain about the effects of these experiences on psychological well-being. Implications and future research directions are discussed.


The June 17th, 2015 evening bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, began innocently enough. Twelve regular parishioners and church members gathered in the basement fellowship hall, including the pastor and a state senator.

A new participant joined them on this night, a twenty-one-year-old white male by the name of Dylann Roof. The group welcomed Roof and they all began to pray and read verses from the Gospel.

Then, after an hour had passed, Dylann Roof stood and calmly announced, “I’m here to kill black people!” At that point, he pulled a Glock 41 .45 caliber handgun from his fanny pack and began to unload on the members. Roof, equipped with eight magazines of hollow-point bullets, continued to methodically fire for several minutes. When asked by one victim why he was doing this, Roof responded, “You are raping our women and taking over the country.”

As the full magnitude of the shooting unfolded overnight, it became clear this was one of the worst incidents of racial discrimination and terrorism in American history (Davis, 2016). Despite indicators of racial progress in the United States (e.g., the two-year election of President Barack Obama), it is evident that African Americans continue to be plagued by racism.

Contemporary acts of racially motivated violence serve as a harsh reality of the discriminatory world in which we live in [e.g., nine people killed in the massacre at a historically Black church (2015), police killings of Trayvon Martin (2012), Tamir Rice (2014), Mike Brown (2014), Eric Garner (2014), and even more recently, Alton Sterling (2016)]. Additionally, although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352) eliminated legal discrimination based on race, racial discrimination is still a fact of life for many individuals in the United States (Hannon, 2016).

Throughout United States history, racial discrimination has been prevalent among many different racial, ethnic, and cultural groups; however, some researchers have long argued that discrimination against African Americans has been one of the most difficult to overcome (Feagin & Eckberg, 1980).

Similar to the rest of society, colleges and universities are not immune to racial discrimination. A large amount of research has reported that racial discrimination has significant impacts on the health and well-being of African American college students (Greer & Brown, 2011; Hannon, 2016; Harwood, Huntt, Mendenhall, & Lewis, 2012; Prelow et al., 2006).

With “Blackface” party incidents and “noose” hangings making news at numerous universities all over the country, African American students face challenges beyond the academic scope of tests, papers, and projects (Beamon, 2014).

Although racial discrimination is likely to occur at many different types of post-secondary institutions (e.g., community colleges, historically black colleges, etc.), large majority of the literature focuses on the African American college student experience at four-year, predominantly white institutions (PWIs).


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