Race-Based Traumatic Stress, Racial Identity Statuses, and Psychological Functioning: An Exploratory Investigation

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To understand the impact racial experiences have on people of color, it is important to consider both whether there are any race-based traumatic stress symptoms (RBTS) and within-group psychological differences as reflected in one’s racial identity status attitudes (RISA). Moreover, if the combination of RBTS reactions and racial identity status attitudes are related to their psychological functioning? The current study explored the relationships between a person’s reactions to memorable racial encounters as assessed by the Race-Based Traumatic Stress Symptoms Scale, their racial identity status attitudes measured by the People of Color Racial Identity Attitude Scale, and psychological functioning (i.e., distress and well-being). Data from 282 adult community-based participants were used to examine the combined associations between RBTS, racial identity status attitudes, psychological well-being and psychological distress. A hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted to examine the relationships between race-based traumatic stress reactions and racial identity status attitudes. A two-cluster group solution was found that showed associations between externally defined or less mature racial identity status attitudes and higher RBTS symptoms and psychological distress. Internally defined or more mature or differentiated racial identity statuses were related to decreased psychological distress and RBTS symptoms. The findings were not expected in that lower racial identity statues were associated with higher levels of RBTS. Clinical implications and future research directions are discussed.

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