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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    • "Some mothers believe family issues and concerns are not to be discussed outside the family (Boyd et al., 2011). Many mothers of color desire to be " the strong Black woman/superwoman " (Woods-Giscombe, 2010) and the " marianiso, " or " the strong Latina woman " (Melendez, 2005) and believe that seeking professional help is a sign of failure. Additionally, communication barriers associated with primary language differences between the mother and her service providers can influence the success of the intervention outcomes (Boyd et al., 2011). "
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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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    • "It may useful to examine and understand how, for African-American women, a broad social network might not only provide greater potential sources of support , social capital, and eustress, but also how it might provide greater sources of indirectly experienced stress exposure, crises, or other critical and potentially distressing life events. The research evidence on African-American women's caregiving roles within their families and communities and their potential for prioritizing caregiving over self-care, may place them at greater risk for detrimental health effects related to the life experiences of members of their social network (Black & Peacock, 2011; Samuel-Hodge et al., 2005; Woods-Giscombé, 2010). "
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