Minority group status, perceived discrimination, and emotion-focused coping

Vassilliere, Christa (Christa Theresa)
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In two studies, this thesis depicts the relationship between minority group status in the United States, perceived discrimination, and coping with stress. Past literature on coping and its types – problem-focused versus emotion-focused – is inconsistent in terms of differences between minority status groups and majority groups. It remains unknown whether or why Black Americans and lesbian or gay Americans may demonstrate coping patterns that differ from White Americans and heterosexual Americans, respectively. What is altogether absent from the literature is the possible mediating factor of perceived discrimination experienced by these minority groups. That is, differences in internal, stable coping processes that manage stress may have been molded by one’s experience with discrimination. Study 1 examines the relationship between race (Black versus White) and coping, mediated by perceived discrimination. Study 2 examines the relationship between sexual orientation (lesbian or gay versus heterosexual) and coping, mediated by perceived discrimination. Both studies confirm the thesis that minority group members exhibit maladaptive, emotion-focused coping more than majority group members – but that this difference is explained by the minority group members’ perceived discrimination. Historical and political relevance, social implications, and possible limitations in design and interpretation are discussed.