Examining the relationship between racial identity and positive health behaviors among African American emerging adults

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Authors
Sly, Jamilia Raki
Advisors
Lewis, Rhonda K.
Issue Date
2010-12
Type
Dissertation
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Abstract

Racial identity is an important factor in predicting health behaviors, especially among African Americans. The history of African Americans in the United States makes racial identity an important concept to study. Racial identity can be described as the degree to which a person feels connected to or shares commonalities with an ethnic racial group (Helms, 1990). African Americans fare much worse than other racial and ethnic minorities in the United States in many areas of health. The purpose of this project was to investigate the relationship between racial identity and health behaviors of African American adults aged 18-25 years old. Two hundred African American emerging adults (18-28 years old) (50% female) were recruited from a university campus and community arts festival to participate in the study. Results yielded three distinct identity profiles (multicultural, integrationist and marginalized). Race was a defining feature of identity for the integrationist cluster. The multicultural profile embraced blending with mainstream culture and other minority groups and the marginalized profile did not identify with any group or ideology. The three profiles were assessed for differences in health behaviors (i.e. substance use, mental health, exercise, number of sexual partners). The marginalized profile displayed lower positive affect, more cigarette smoking and more sexual partners in the past year than the other two profiles. Racial identity may be one way of assessing how participants view the world. The information about why they identify with a certain racial identity profile might help researchers tailor preventive interventions to reducing health disparities. Our findings, however, have shown that racial identity alone is not sufficient in explaining how or why people choose to engage in unhealthy behaviors.

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Thesis (Ph.D.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology
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Wichita State University
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