Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Collette P. Eccleston


coping, health disparties, obesity

Subject Categories



While overweight and obesity are problems for many adults, there are significant racial disparities, such that Blacks suffer higher rates than Whites. A number of health conditions that are linked to overweight and obesity, including diabetes and hypertension are also more prevalent among Blacks than among Whites (Glover, Greenlund, Ayla, & Croft, 2005; Pleis & Lethbridge-Çejku, 2007). With the knowledge that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that there are psychological components to obesity, this research aims to investigate psychological components that may contribute to the weight/health disparity between Blacks and Whites. Other research has demonstrated that Blacks perceive race-related prejudice and discrimination in the health domain (Blocker et al., 2006; LaVeist, Nickerson, & Bowie, 2000; Lillie-Blanton, Brodie, Rowland, Altman, & McIntosh, 2000). Yet, it is unknown how they cope with racism in this domain, and whether the voluntary strategies of discounting, disengagement, and devaluing (Major & O'Brien, 2005) have unintended consequence that contribute to weight disparity between Blacks and Whites.

This study was designed as a conceptual replication of Major, Spencer, Schmader, Wolfe, & Crocker (1998, study 1). The design included giving participants false feedback on an ostensible assessment of their risk for developing excess visceral fat. The primary goal was to examine whether the coping strategies mentioned above, which are commonly used among Black students in an academic domain, would be used by Black adults upon receiving negative feedback in the health domain. The sample included 79 Black and White adults recruited from the City of Syracuse, ages 18-44. While the majority of these participants had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of < .30, the cut-off for obesity, error resulted in the inclusion of eight obese participants. Results of hierarchical regression analyses indicate that Black participants did not report greater use of these coping strategies when confronted with feedback that they were at increased risk of developing excess visceral fat (compared to Whites in this same feedback condition and Blacks and Whites in the control condition). Instead, race did not seem to affect devaluing or disengagement, and negative feedback resulted in less, not more, discounting among Blacks than Whites who also received negative feedback. Although, the finding from one study cannot act as conclusive evidence, results of this study suggest that differences in self-reported use of these three coping strategies does not suggest an explanation for the weight disparity. However, differences in reported beliefs regarding health-promoting behaviors offer insight into how future research projects can examine potential mediation between race and negative health outcomes.


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