What is it about?

The Strong Black Woman or Superwoman Schema has received significant interest from clinicians and scholars interested in the health of Black women. In this study, we explored social isolation and gendered racial centrality as two factors that may explain the complexity of Superwoman Schema and mental health outcomes: social isolation explained depression symptoms while gendered racial centrality explained resilience. The findings highlight the importance of understanding the complexities of Black women’s sense of self and add to the growing body of literature that has implications for culturally competent interventions for Black women.

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Why is it important?

To our knowledge, this is the first study to test and find support for hypotheses about how specific dimensions of Superwoman Schema are associated with both positive and negative psychological outcomes. Our findings suggest that adherence to Superwoman Schema may be adaptive in navigating oppression and psychologically distressing, which can be used to inform interventions with Black women.

Perspectives

I became interested in the Strong Black Woman/Superwoman Schema (SBW/SWS) when I read Black Macho and the Myth of Superwoman by Michele Wallace, Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, and Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry. Reading these works and countless articles, I was struck by Dr. Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant’s proposal that “researchers should interrogate the rhetoric of being strong and empirically investigate whether or under what circumstances it becomes a productive way of managing life and emotional distress for Black women” (p. 46). Twelve years later, we have answered this call and I am excited to share with you this co-authored paper with this group of scholars who have invested in this work!

Tamara Nelson
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey

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This page is a summary of: Association between superwoman schema, depression, and resilience: The mediating role of social isolation and gendered racial centrality., Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, February 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/cdp0000533.
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