Self-efficacy and coping responses in lower socioeconomic status African-American women involved in abusive relationships

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




D. Bruce Carter


Self-efficacy, Coping, Lower socioeconomic status, African-American, Abusive, Women victims

Subject Categories



Studies indicate that higher levels of self-efficacy can positively influence coping behaviors in various instances involving mastery of challenging and threatening situations. Existing literature suggests that coping behavior corresponds closely with percepts of self-efficacy. Specifically, higher levels of perceived self-efficacy are accompanied by greater performance attainments. Self-efficacy theory also has been examined in the context of coping in abusive relationships. In studies involving comparisons between groups of abused and non-abused women, abused women have shown lower levels of self-efficacy than have a comparison group of non-abused women. Furthermore, the severity of physical abuse among the abused women positively correlated with depression scores. I discuss self-efficacy and coping theories in the context of coping in abusive relationships. The present study examined how lower socioeconomic status (SES) African-American women, a seldom studied population in efficacy and coping research, coped with abuse in their relationships with their spouses. A major purpose of the investigation was to see if successful coping was related to higher levels of self-efficacy among the population being studied. Fifty-six African American women, who had reported experiencing relationship discord and, in most cases abuse, completed a series of questionnaires assessing their level of distress, the nature of the abuse they suffered (if applicable), their ways of coping, their problem-solving efficacy, and their levels of self-efficacy. I focused on coping strategies and how they might be related to self-efficacy and coping outcomes. Level of depression was used as a measure of coping outcome. Coping strategies, specifically problem-focused versus emotion-focused strategies, also were examined in relation to coping success. The main hypothesis of this study was that a strong sense of relationship efficacy was related to perceived coping success, effective coping styles, and lower levels of perceived distress. The findings supported this hypothesis. Specifically, the subjects in this study who reported higher levels of relationship efficacy were found to be less dysphoric. They also reported a more problem-focused approach to coping and were less likely to experience physical and verbal abuse in situations of conflict in their spousal relationships.