Racial Discrimination and Relationship Functioning Among African American Couples

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Abstract

Racial discrimination is a common stressor for African Americans, with negative consequences for mental and physical well-being. It is likely that these effects extend into the family, but little research has examined the association between racial discrimination and couple functioning. This study used dyadic data from 344 rural, predominantly low-income heterosexual African American couples with an early adolescent child to examine associations between self-reported racial discrimination, psychological and physical aggression, and relationship satisfaction and instability. Experiences of discrimination were common among men and women and were negatively associated with relationship functioning. Specifically, men reported higher levels of psychological aggression and relationship instability if they experienced higher levels of racial discrimination, and women reported higher levels of physical aggression if they experienced higher levels of racial discrimination. All results replicated when controlling for financial hardship, indicating unique effects for discrimination. Findings suggest that racial discrimination may be negatively associated with relationship functioning among African Americans and call for further research on the processes underlying these associations and their long-term consequences.

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