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Anika Wilson-Brown, Teresa A. Wilkins, Ph.D.

Religion and Spirituality and Race Related Trauma of African Americans

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Although there has been progress in the passing of legislation halting blatant racial discrimination, America continues to experience racially influenced incidents that have national impact on school systems, housing opportunities, employment and educational prospects, jail incarceration rates, and racial disparities in mental health and health care services (Malott & Schaefle, 2015). Since the initiation of the slave trade, the effects of systemic racism have significantly impacted African Americans as an enduring stressor (Carter & Reynolds, 2011). Racism can be displayed through indirect or direct experiences and has been associated with pervasive spiritual injury, inter-generational mental conflict, and reduced physical health outcomes among African Americans (Comas-Diaz, 2016). However there is not much research on how the religious practices and spiritual beliefs of African Americans impact the psychological process of coping with race related stress and demonstrate resilience under these conditions. The present study explored if religiousness and spirituality would predict positive coping strategies over personality when race-related stress was experienced in a sample of African Americans.

Data were analyzed from 108 African-American individuals from churches and community based organizations in Washington, DC, ranging from 20 to 85 years of age, with a mean age of 48.71. The sample consisted of 77% females and 23% males. The religious affiliations of the sample were: 59% Baptist, 23% Other Christian, 19% Other Christian, 6% Methodist, 3% Catholic, and 1% Atheist or Agnostic. It was hypothesized that differing levels of spirituality and religiousness would be related to coping responses and race-related stress. The impact of age was also examined. The participants completed an electronic questionnaire that contained the following measures: self-report short form of the Assessment of Spirituality and Religious Sentiments (ASPIRES; Piedmont, 2008); International Personality Item Pool (IPIP-50); Brief Religious Coping Scale (B-RCOPE; Pargament, 1997), Prolonged Activation and Anticipatory Scale Race-Related Stress Scale (PARS; Utsey et al., 2012); and a demographic questionnaire. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted, controlling for personality, in concurrence with Piedmont’s (2005) call to advance religious research via incremental validity studies. Understanding these intervening factors might lend valuable knowledge about coping practices for pastoral counseling that could potentially increase resiliency and psychological well-being among African Americans (Utsey & Giesbrecht, 2008).

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