Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Guerda Nicolas

Second Committee Member

Laura Kohn Wood

Third Committee Member

Elizabeth Harry

Fourth Committee Member

Anabel Bejarano

Fifth Committee Member

Linda Belgrave


Assessments of racism are linked to increased risk of anxiety (Soto, Dawson- Andoh, & BeLue, 2011), depression (Lee & Turney, 2012), and increased symptoms of PTSD (Polanco-Roman, Danies, & Anglin, 2016), leading scholars to infer racism may be a type of traumatic stress (Carter, 2007; Helms, Nicolas, & Green, 2010). African American men and women report similar frequency and levels of racism-related stress (Jackson, Shestov, & Saadatmand, 2017; Kwate & Goodman, 2015) however, the impacts appear significant for Black women (Chyu and Upchurch, 2011; Jackson, Shestov, & Saadatmand, 2017). This exploratory study sought greater understanding of Black women’s experiences with racial stress and the impacts on their well-being. One hundred and thirty-five African American women between the ages 25-65 were recruited for the study. Mixed methods were used to examine the study variables of race-based traumatic stress, psychological well-being, and health service utilization. Results showed that Black women routinely seek health care and experience moderate levels of positive mental health but, racial stress is complex and multifaceted. Experiences of racism accounted for a significant portion of the difference in Black women’s current psychological well-being, suggesting the impacts of racial stress are enduring. Given African American women’s experience of chronic racial stress more research is needed to understand how their brains are directing and processing stressful stimuli in order to bolster their well-being.


Black/African American women; racial stress; trauma; well-being; health; racism