Categories: Forensic Counseling
Date: Sep 21, 2009
Title: Coping Strategies: A Case Study of an African American Male
We live in a world that includes many stressful circumstances. Many use jogging, going to health clubs, and diet to reduce tension. Many corporations have developed stress management programs. According to the National Mental Health Association, 75–90% of visits to physicians are stress related (Bradley, 1997). These staggering statistics continue to escalate as people become busier. Stress-related disorders are a major cause of increasing health care costs. Television and news articles regularly warn about the dangers of stress. A certain amount of stress is adaptive. In fact, certain individuals may view stress as a motivator; others may not. The key is to maintain a balance between being challenged and being overloaded by stress. Stress may cause not only psychological problems but also contribute to physical illnesses ranging from a common cold to a heart attack. Many people may have difficulty discerning when stress has increased to dangerous levels (Bradley, 1997). How can one tell if stress is excessive? Everyone faces strains from family, social, and personal pressures. Does this mean one is over-stressed? An individual’s stress load is determined not so much by the demands of life or the number of stressors one has. What counts is one’s response to those stressors. In other words, how well does one cope or handle those stressors?
African Americans are inclined to experience greater stress than their Euro-American counterparts. African Americans must daily suffer the annoying micro-aggressions such environments breed, such as, being ignored for service, assumed to be guilty of anything negative, treated inferior, stared at because of color, ridiculed because of hair texture, or singled out for being different (Carroll, 1998). Considering the disproportion of unemployment, access to health care, poverty and educational attainment, African Americans are arguably the most stressed population in the United States. Moreover, African Americans, particularly males, run a greater risk of hypertension and other illnesses that have been linked with stress. Although there are limited research findings on coping styles to reduce stress by African Americans, this study extends that body research. A tape-recorded interview was used to explore the cognitive aspects of stress appraisal and coping. The findings supported three major themes: the importance of spirituality, being proactive in coping with stress, and routine exercise. By Mario V. Norman Stress is one of those terms that is not easy to define. Mental health professionals and researchers debate whether or not stress is represented by threatening events or responses to these demands. Richard Lazarus (1966) has been an effective proponent of the need to define stress in terms of both a stimulus and the individual’s response to the stimulus. He argues that stress arises not from life events themselves but from an individual’s primary appraisal or cognitive evaluation of the challenge, threat, or harm proposed by a particular event (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Lazarus asserts that any given life event is a stressor only when it is considered stressful by the individual. In some cases, a specific cultural group may be exposed to pervasive stress that is unique to that group (Berry & Ataca, 2000). Stressor disparities can be found by specific cultural groups (Mino, Profit, & Pierce, 2000). Feldman-Barrett and Swim (1998) emphasized that the discriminatory acts are often ambiguous (e.g., the salesperson seemed to be ignoring me). Hence, theorists assert that minority group members may experience stress not only from explicit discrimination in ambiguous situations but even from the anticipation of the possibility of discrimination in upcoming events (Weiten & Lloyd, 2006). In addition to discrimination, members of ethnic minorities experience stress because they are keenly aware of negative racial stereotypes and often worry that others will interpret their behavior in ways that confirm these derogatory stereotypes (Steele, 1997). With regard to race, Veroff, Douvan, and Kulka (1981) concluded that adult African Americans tend to experience greater stress than do Euro-Americans. Everyone, regardless of race, experiences work-related stress; however, African-American professionals often feel high-tensed stress because of individual working styles that conflict. There could also be frustration over being passed up for promotions and exclusion from information networks (Underwood, 1992). In a study of 520 African Americans, 96 percent of the respondents reported experiencing some type of racist discrimination in the most recent year, and 95 percent of these participants indicated that they found this discrimination to be stressful (Klonoff & Landrine, 1999). Some researchers point out that race-related stress may contribute to increased risk for disease, instability, and premature death (Gary, 1993). African-American males are faced with additional stressors (e.g., fewer job opportunities, lower income, and increased exposure to violence), which may place them at a greater risk for developing hypertension (Hediger, Schell, Katz, Gruskin, & Eveleth, 1984) and recurring symptomatology (Jones, 1989). Peters (2006) suggests that racism is an omnipresent, painful reality confronting African Americans on a routine basis; embedded in social norms and expressed interpersonally, institutionally, and culturally, racism is a chronic, cumulative stressor. There has been a significant amount of research activity focused on how individuals cope with stress (Oakland & Ostell, 1996). Empirical research is limited concerning the type of situations African Americans view as stressful as well as the coping strategies. Baldwin, Harris, and Chambliss (1997) suggested racial differences regarding the effects of stress may be attributed to different coping styles. Qualitative research would be useful in exploring the cognitive aspects of stress appraisal and coping with the African-American population (Baldwin, Harris & Chambliss, 1997). The objective of this study was to identify coping styles through a case study of an African-American male who had been successful in managing stress. Additionally, these coping styles may be used to decrease health risks that are related to stress and may contribute a basis for further research. According to Folkman and Moskowitz (2000), most models of stress do not emphasize positive ways to deal with it or, adaptational significance. They do not describe the kinds of coping processes that people use to generate or sustain positive health given enduring stress. Folkman and Moskowitz’s (2000) theory of positive affect of stress provided the basis for the quest to identify successful coping strategies. African-American men are diverse in terms of their socioeconomic status, values, belief systems, political ideology, sexual orientation, racial identity, and other social variables; the one commonality among them is the experience of societal racism and oppression (Elligan & Utsey, 1999). Although often overlooked, qualitative methodologies are important sources of information and have been identified as an important research tool in the development of a more substantial research knowledge based on racialized minority groups (Sue, 1999). Methodology A case study approach was conducted to identify an African-American male’s concept of stress and his successful coping styles. An interview that began with basic questions that were presented in an informal, conversational style was conducted to gather data. The basic questions inquired about his personal history including his age, education, and marital status. After this information was collected, the domains of the interview were discussed: How does the interviewee define and successfully manage stress? Moreover, the interviewee was asked to describe what behaviors were important in maintaining good health. How did he perceive stress to influence his health? The Human Subjects Review Board approved the study prior to the interview. The interviewee was a married, 24-year-old African-American male who was a college graduate. He was currently working as an account manager with hopes of returning to school to earn an advanced degree. The interviewee may have experienced some anxiety related to being interviewed and/or recorded. In the event of a reaction, the principal researcher’s name and telephone number was given to the interviewee. The interviewee also had the right to withdraw from the study at any time.
Tags: African, American, male, stress, information, data, domains, interviews, recorded, case, study, coping