New publication

Don’t miss our alum’s recent publication! Congrats, Briana!

How Racism “Gets Under the Skin”: An Examination of the Physical- and Mental-Health Costs of Culturally Compelled Coping

Briana N. Brownlow


Historically and contemporarily, Black Americans have been compelled to use effortful coping styles characterized by high behavioral and emotional restraint in the face of systematic racism. Lynch and colleagues have previously conceptualized a class of regulatory strategies—overcontrolled coping—characterized by emotional suppression, hypervigilance for threat, and high distress tolerance, which bear close analogy to coping styles frequently used among individuals facing chronic racial stress. However, given the inherent culture of racism in the United States, engaging in highly controlled coping strategies is often necessitated and adaptive, at least in the short term. Thus, for Black Americans this class of coping strategies is conceptualized as culturally compelled coping rather than overcontrolled coping. In the current article, I offer a critical examination of the literature and introduce a novel theoretical model—culturally compelled coping—that culturally translates selected components of Lynch’s model. Cultural translation refers to considering how the meaning, function, and consequences of using overcontrolled coping strategies changes when considering how Black Americans exist and cope within a culture of systematic racism. Importantly, this model may offer broad implications for future research and treatment by contextualizing emotion regulation as a central mechanism, partially answering how racism “gets under the skin” and affects the health of Black Americans.

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