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


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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    • "It also highlights our shared anti-Black colonial and imperial histories (Rodney, 1981), and Africana women's resulting relatively low political-economic-social positioning within global racial patriarchies (Collins, 2000). While previous scholars have discussed the influence of these forces on Black women's religious/spiritual, supportive, and archetypal ways of coping within an American context (see Goins, 2011; Mattis, 2002; Woods-Giscombé, 2010), the aforementioned ontological and social dynamics transcend nation-state boundaries. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose the utilization of similar coping strategies on a transnational scale. "
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    • "Among women, global stress was also inversely correlated with John Henryism, though weakly (r ¼ À0.06, p value ¼ 0.01). Another potential explanation of our findings for women is that they reflect the impact of unique, societal level, race and gender stressors on African American women which pressure them to be " strong " in the face of adversity, despite potentially heavy costs to their health (Beauboeuf-Lafontan, 2009; Woods-Giscombe, 2010). Our intriguing findings for women require replication and further investigations in other samples. "
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    ABSTRACT: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) represent substantial threats to public health and affect about 58% of youth in the US. In addition to their acute effects such as injury and physical trauma, ACEs are associated with an increased risk of several negative health outcomes throughout the life course. Emerging evidence suggests that sleep disorders may be one such outcome, but existing studies have not been systematically reviewed and summarized. We conducted a systematic review to summarize the evidence concerning the relationship between ACEs and sleep disorders and disturbances, with a focus on adult women. Original publications were identified through searches of the electronic databases MEDLINE, Embase, and Web of Science using the keywords "childhood," "adversity," "abuse," and "sleep" as well as searches of the reference lists of eligible studies. Studies evaluating ACEs that occurred before 18 years of age and sleep outcomes that were assessed at 18 years or older were adjudicated and included. A total of 30 publications were identified. Of the 30 studies, 28 were retrospective analyses and there was vast heterogeneity in the types of ACEs and sleep outcomes measured. The majority of retrospective studies (N = 25 of 28) documented statistically significant associations between sleep disorders including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, nightmare distress, sleep paralysis, and psychiatric sleep disorders with a history of childhood adversity. In many studies, the strengths of associations increased with the number and severity of adverse experiences. These associations were corroborated by the two prospective studies published to date. Notably, investigators have documented statistically significant associations between family conflict at 7-15 years of age and insomnia at 18 years of age (odds ratio, OR = 1.4; 95% confidence interval, CI = 1.2-1.7) and between childhood sexual abuse and sleep disturbances 10 years later in adult women (β = 0.24, p <0.05). There is a growing scientific body of knowledge suggesting an association between ACEs and multiple sleep disorders in adulthood. The available evidence indicates the need to develop treatment strategies such as trauma-informed care for survivors of abuse who suffer from sleep disorders and disturbances. Further, longitudinal studies among diverse populations are needed to improve the overall understanding of this association and to investigate potential gender and racial/ethnic disparities in the strength of the association. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Sleep Medicine 01/2015; 16(3). DOI:10.1016/j.sleep.2014.12.013 · 3.15 Impact Factor
    • "Several factors may influence African American women's comfort with acknowledging psychological problems and with seeking professional psychological help for those problems (i.e., psychological openess, Fischer & Turner, 1970; Mackenzie et al., 2004). First, 'strong Black women' are expected to self-silence and hide vulnerability (Beauboeuf-Lafontant, 2007; Black & Peacock, 2011; Woods-Giscombé, 2010; Woods-Giscombé & Lobel, 2008). As a result, African American women may avoid mental health services (i.e., be less psychologically open) in order to maintain a façade of strength (Thomas et al., 2004). "
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    ABSTRACT: The Strong Black Woman (SBW) race-gender schema prompts African American women to use self-reliance and self-silence as coping strategies in response to stressors. Utilizing the coping strategies associated with the SBW race-gender schema could trigger anxiety and depression symptoms that may intensify when coupled with negative attitudes toward professional psychological help. The present study investigated whether African American women's endorsement of the SBW race-gender schema predicted increased symptoms of anxiety and depression and whether attitudes toward professional psychological help-seeking intensified psychological distress. Data were collected from 95 participants ranging in age from 18 to 65. Hierarchical regression analysis demonstrated significant main effects for the SBW race-gender schema and greater anxiety and depression, respectively. Greater indifference to stigma, 1 dimension of help-seeking attitudes, predicted lower levels of anxiety. African American women's attitudes toward professional help-seeking did not moderate the associations between endorsement of the SBW race-gender schema and anxiety or depression, respectively. Finally, endorsement of the SBW race-gender schema was inversely and significantly associated with 2 facets of help-seeking attitudes: (a) psychological openness and (b) help-seeking propensity. Taken together, these findings provide empirical support for the role of cultural factors, like the SBW race-gender schema, in African American women's experience of psychological distress and potential underutilization of mental health services. Future research directions are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 01/2015; DOI:10.1037/cdp0000015 · 1.36 Impact Factor
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