Abstract: Environmental Risk and Protective Factors of Social Isolation Among Black Women (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

513P Environmental Risk and Protective Factors of Social Isolation Among Black Women

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Stephenie Howard, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Howard University, DC, WA
Shirin Sultana, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Howard University, Washington, DC
Cudore Snell, DSW, Professor, Howard University, DC, WA
Background and Purpose: According to Erikson’s psychosocial theory, intimacy is the syntonic outcome expected to emerge during young adulthood. The development of intimacy is based, in part, on the quantity and quality of opportunities to experiment with intimate relationships and to incorporate love into one’s psyche. Given the disparities in marriage rates among young Black women compared to others and the unique challenges they face in dating and finding friends with shared values and lifestyles, there is reason to believe that they may be at increased risk for incorporating isolation, the dystonic outcome, into their psyche. To inform this hypothesis, this study examined the range and scope of intimacy and isolation experienced by young Black women and the cultural sensitivity of the psychosocial theory of development. 

Methods: This study was a secondary data analysis. Publicly available data was collected from the National Survey of American Life Self-Administered Questionnaire (NSAL-SAQ), a large, nationally-representative study of racial and ethnic differences in mental disorder, psychological distress, and informal and formal service use. Participants for the primary study were selected using multi-stage probability methods, and interviews took place between early 2001 and the spring of 2003. The secondary study used a sub-section of the population: African American women aged 18-40 years old (n = 1,158). The study used SPSS to determine what set of the following factors best predicted life satisfaction among African American women: intimacy with church members, intimacy with family, intimacy with friends, or marital status (married or cohabitating, divorced, separated, or widowed; or never married). A stepwise multiple regression analysis was conducted to estimate a regression model that best predicted levels of life satisfaction by indices of social isolation in the sample population.  

Results: The results of the stepwise multiple regression revealed that three of the four factors significantly predicted life satisfaction: intimacy with family, intimacy with church members, and being married or cohabitating. Intimacy with family, church members, and being married or cohabiting were observed to be positively associated with life satisfaction. Family intimacy was observed to be the strongest predictor of life satisfaction, followed by intimacy with church members, and married or cohabitating. Intimacy with friends was not found to be a predictor of life satisfaction. Overall, the model was a good fit and explained a modest 4 % of the variance in life satisfaction.  

Conclusion and Implications: This study found evidence of both intimacy and isolation among young Black women. The findings also advance Erikson’s psychosocial theory by pointing to facilitative and risk factors in the social environment in psychosocial outcomes among Black women. Given these findings, in social work education and practice, critical attention should be given to identifying and assessing barriers in the social environment that inhibit opportunities for individuals to incorporate syntonic outcomes into their psyche. Social workers should also be at the forefront in developing culturally sensitive interventions to reduce social isolation among young Black women and the disparities it creates in health, wellness, and economics.