Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Benjamin Saunders

Committee Chair and Members

Benjamin Saunders, Chair

Sara Haden

Lisa Samstag


African Americans, Appraisal, Coping, Racial discrimination, Racial identity, Racial trauma


Research indicates that Black Americans are at higher risk for trauma symptoms due to exposure to racial discrimination. However, the degree to which Black Americans appraise discriminatory events as threatening and how their coping with discrimination affects traumatization, remains unclear. Additionally, the use of undergraduate student convenience samples limits the generalizability of prior research. In the current study, an online sample of Black American adults (N = 415, age 18 to 75, M = 36.10, SD = 11.18), threat appraisal was tested as a mechanism through which discrimination predicts trauma symptoms, and both coping strategies and racial identity were explored as potentially influencing the impact of discrimination on trauma. Finally, this study investigated the discrimination – trauma relationship within the context of vicarious discrimination. Perceived racial discrimination had a large effect (r = .67) on trauma symptoms, supporting external validation of the traumatic impact of racial discrimination to a broader sample of Black adults. Moreover, both direct and vicarious racial discrimination were positively related to trauma symptoms through threat appraisal. Racial ideology (i.e., Afrocentricity, Multicultural Inclusive, Antiwhite, Assimilation, Miseducation, and Self-hatred) did not protect participants from the effect of discrimination. However, salient negative (i.e., Self-hatred and Miseducation) and conflicted (i.e., Antiwhite) racial identities worsened the effect of vicarious discrimination, while Self-hatred was the only racial identity to exacerbate the impact of direct discrimination. Avoidant coping also strengthened the effect of direct discrimination on trauma symptoms, but problem-focused and social support coping did not influence this relationship. The implications of the findings, possible future directions, and limitations of the study are discussed.

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