Superwoman Schema: African American Women's Views on Stress, Strength, and Health

School of Nursing, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460, USA.
Qualitative Health Research (Impact Factor: 2.19). 02/2010; 20(5):668-83. DOI: 10.1177/1049732310361892
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Researchers have suggested that health disparities in African American women, including adverse birth outcomes, lupus, obesity, and untreated depression, can be explained by stress and coping. The Strong Black Woman/Superwoman role has been highlighted as a phenomenon influencing African American women's experiences and reports of stress. The purpose of this study was to develop a preliminary conceptual framework for Superwoman Schema (SWS) by exploring women's descriptions of the Superwoman role; perceptions of contextual factors, benefits, and liabilities; and beliefs regarding how it influences health. Analysis of eight focus group discussions with demographically diverse African American women yielded themes characterizing the Superwoman role and personal or sociohistorical contextual factors. Participants reported that the Superwoman role had benefits (preservation of self and family or community) and liabilities (relationship strain, stress-related health behaviors, and stress embodiment). The SWS framework might be used to enhance future research on stress and African American women's health.

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    • "Stress may originate from the social environment and from cultural expectations (Woods-Giscombé & Lobel, 2008). The African American culture expects African American women to be " strong " and to carry burdens and stresses without complaint (Woods-Giscombé, 2010). Therefore, African American women with breast cancer may have increased stress but may feel pressured to be silent about stressors, which may lead to strained community relationships and decreased community connections. "
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    ABSTRACT: To describe the theory of community connection defined as close relationships with women and men who are members of a neighborhood, a church, a work group, or an organization. Antecedent and mediator variables related to community connection are identified. A cross-sectional design was used to assess for relationships among theorized antecedents and mediators of community connection in a sample of 144 African American women aged 21 years and older (mean = 54.9) who had been diagnosed with invasive/infiltrating ductal carcinoma. MEASUREMENT AND ANALYSES: Community connection was measured with the relational health indices-community subscale. Mediator analysis was conducted to assess significance of the indirect effects of the mediator variables, which were fear, breast cancer knowledge, and isolation. Community connection was found to be associated with three of the four antecedents, cancer stigma, stress, and spirituality, but not associated with fatalism. Effects were mediated primarily through fear and isolation with isolation as was more dominant of the two mediators. Surprisingly, breast cancer knowledge showed no significant mediator role. The importance of isolation and fear as mediators of community connection is highlighted by this research. The study could serve as a model for other researchers seeking to understand connection in ethnic groups and communities.
    Research and theory for nursing practice 11/2011; 25(4):252-70. DOI:10.1891/1541-6577.25.4.252 · 0.61 Impact Factor
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    • "However, African American women have acknowledged that the detrimental aspects of SWS may outweigh the good. A schema of strength in the quest for survival also may lead to conflict in interpersonal relationships, delayed self-care, emotional eating, inadequate sleep, and stress embodiment, including psychological distress, anxiety, depression, and impaired physical health such as undesirable maternal health outcomes (Woods-Giscombé, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: In the current article, the authors examine the potential role of mind-body interventions for preventing or reducing health disparities in a specific group-African American women. The authors first discuss how health disparities affect this group, including empirical evidence regarding the influence of biopsychosocial processes (e.g., psychological stress and social context) on disparate health outcomes. They also detail how African American women's unique stress experiences as a result of distinct sociohistorical and cultural experiences related to race and gender potentially widen exposure to stressors and influence stress responses and coping behaviors. Using two independent, but related, frameworks (Superwoman Schema [SWS] and the Strong Black Woman Script [SBW-S]), they discuss how, for African American women, stress is affected by "strength" (vis-à-vis resilience, fortitude, and self-sufficiency) and the emergent health-compromising behaviors related to strength (e.g., emotional suppression, extraordinary caregiving, and self-care postponement). The authors then describe the potential utility of three mind-body interventions-mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), and NTU psychotherapy-for specifically targeting the stress-, strength-, and contextually related factors that are thought to influence disparate outcomes for African American women. Self-awareness, self-care, inter- and intrapersonal restorative healing and a redefinition of inner strength may manifest through developing a mindfulness practice to decrease stress-related responses; using LKM to cultivate compassion and forgiveness for self and others; and the balance of independence and interdependence as a grounding NTU principle for redefining strength. The authors conclude with a discussion of potential benefits for integrating key aspects of the interventions with recommendations for future research.
    Complementary health practice review 12/2010; 15(3):115-131. DOI:10.1177/1533210110386776
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    ABSTRACT: In this study, we explored the strategies that Black women use to cope with gendered racial microaggressions, or the subtle and everyday verbal, behavioral, and environmental expressions of oppression based on the intersection of one’s race and gender. A total of 17 Black women undergraduate, graduate, and professional students participated in one of two semi-structured focus group interviews. Results from dimensional analysis indicated five coping strategies: two resistance coping strategies (i.e., Using One’s Voice as Power, Resisting Eurocentric Standards), one collective coping strategy (i.e., Leaning on One’s Support Network), and two self-protective coping strategies (i.e., Becoming a Black Superwoman, Becoming Desensitized and Escaping). The theme of Picking and Choosing One’s Battles was also uncovered as a process whereby participants made deliberate decisions about when and how to address the microaggressions they experienced. Findings indicated that Black women used a combination of coping strategies depending on contextual factors, which supports and extends previous research. Implications and directions for future research in the field of African American studies are discussed.
    Journal of African American Studies 03/2012; 17(1). DOI:10.1007/s12111-012-9219-0
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