Date of Award

Spring 6-20-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Counseling Psychology

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Pamela Foley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christiana Awosan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Corinne Datchi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Smith, Ed.D.

Keywords

African American Women, Intimate Partner Violence, Strong Black Woman Archetype, Help-Seeking, Mental Health

Abstract

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a serious issue that can affect not only women’s lives, but also their health (Wong & Mellor, 2014). Research has shown that the psychological effects of IPV can significantly influence women’s attitudes towards help-seeking, but, for Black women, the effects of racial discrimination can further complicate this. Research has also highlighted the underutilization of professional mental health services as an area of great concern in the African American communities. It is believed that some of the reluctance on the part of African American women to seek services for themselves is deeply rooted in the historical and culturally-based beliefs of the Strong Black Woman (SBW). Although researchers have provided preliminary descriptive information and some empirical research has been published exploring women’s beliefs about The Strong Black Woman Archetype (SBWA), there is little to no research addressing African American women’s attitudes towards seeking professional mental health services for IPV, and the relationship of the SBWA to these attitudes. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the SBWA and attitudes towards seeking psychological professional help among African American women in an IPV relationship. Addressing the psychological effects of the SBWA on Black women is important, as understanding of this phenomenon can add to the formulation of interventions and policies that address the multiple barriers and low utilization rates that affect this population. The participants included African American women who self-identified as having been in an IPV relationship at some point in their lives and not currently being in the abusive relationship. All of the participants were residing in domestic violence shelters or using domestic violence resource centers. A hierarchical multiple regression was used to evaluate the relationship between the SBWA and attitudes towards seeking professional psychological help among African American women in an IPV relationship, after controlling for post-traumatic stress symptoms, IPV severity, and length of abuse. Findings indicated that higher levels of endorsement of the SBWA were associated with more negative attitudes towards seeking professional psychological help. The findings from this study suggest that professionals working with Black women in IPV relationships should be aware that the SBWA is a factor that may affect these women’s willingness to seek help.

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