Abstract: We Have to be Strong: Examining the Contextual and Sociocultural Influences on Black Girls’ Endorsement of the Strong Black Woman Schema (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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We Have to be Strong: Examining the Contextual and Sociocultural Influences on Black Girls’ Endorsement of the Strong Black Woman Schema

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Nkemka Anyiwo, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, PA

The “Strong Black Woman” (SBW) is a culturally specific gender schema that characterizes Black women as strong, resilient, and self-sacrificing for their families and communities (Baker et al., 2015). The SBW is theorized to be shaped by historical racist stereotypes of Black women and to have emerged as a mechanism for Black women to navigate the intersections of racism and sexism (Anyiwo et al., 2018; Watson & Hunter, 2016). Endorsement of the SBW has been found relate to adverse (e.g., deleterious mental health and physical health outcomes) and beneficial (e.g., cultural pride and resilience) outcomes for Black woman (e.g., Abrams et al., 2014; Belgrave & Adams, 2018; Woods-Giscombé, 2010). However, a vast majority of work on the SBW has focus on adults. Scholars have called for the need to examine the SBW in Black girls to build the literature on the development process that shapes the SBW (Anyiwo et al., 2018). This study helps address this call by examining the contextual and sociocultural influences that shape Black girls’ endorsement of the SPD. First, we examine the role of social context (e.g., regional, locale, neighborhood diversity) on Black girls’ SBW endorsement. Second, we examine whether Black girls’ experiences of racial discrimination and racial socialization (e.g., messages that prepare them for discrimination) are associated their SBW endorsement.


Participants included 303 adolescents who identified as Black and female ages 13-17 (M = 14.96, SD = 1.44) who participated in a larger study examining Black youth’s sociopolitical experiences. Participants were recruited from across United States: South (50.3%), Midwest (16.2%), Northeast (15.6%), West (7.1%), unidentified (10%). Three one-way ANOVA analyses were conducted to assess the differences in SBW endorsement by social context (region, locale, & diversity of neighborhood). One multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to assess the association between sociocultural experiences (racial socialization and racial discrimination) on SBW endorsement with age and guardian education included as covariates.


Findings from ANOVA analyses reveals that the were no significant differences in Black girls’ endorsement of SBW by region (south, midwest, northeast, west) or by locale (urban, suburban, rural). However, there significant difference depending on the diversity of participants’ neighborhoods. Black girls who lived in neighborhoods with more Black people than other races had statistically significantly higher endorsement of SBW than girls who lived in neighborhoods with more other races than Black people. Regression analyses revealed that Black girls who receive more racial socialization messages preparing them for racial discrimination and whom experiences discrimination more frequently had high endorsement of SBW.


The findings provide support for previous qualitative studies that have identified discrimination and racialized messages from family members as influential in the development of the SBW. Furthermore, our study provides insight to how Black girls racial social context may also play a role in cultivating their SBW endorsement. Our findings highlight that Black girls as early as adolescence are beginning to endorse the SBW schema. Thus, future work should identify the implications of SBW endorsement on their psychological wellbeing and psychosocial development.