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Perceived Discrimination and Psychological Well-being: Social Comparisons and Feelings of Belongingness and Competence

Brian E Armenta, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Empirical evidence indicates that perceptions of personal discriminated has negative psychological consequences (Pascoe & Smart Richman, 2009). Although existing studies vary in a number of important ways, one common thread is the assumption that the psychological costs of perceived personal discrimination stem from absolute perceptions. Relative deprivation theory (e.g., Pettigrew, 1967), however, suggests that the psychological costs of perceived personal discrimination may be dependent upon subjective social comparisons. In particular, perceiving personal discrimination may be most psychologically costly to individuals who believe that they experience a higher level of discrimination than other members of their group (i.e., perceived relative discrimination). The three cross-sectional studies reported in this dissertation support this argument. Using an indirect approach to assessing perceived relative discrimination, in Study 1 I showed that perceived personal discrimination was negatively associated with self-esteem and was positively associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms among Latino adults, but that these associations were strongest for participants who believed that other Latinos experienced low levels of discrimination. In Study 2, using a direct measure of perceived relative discrimination, I showed that perceptions of relative discrimination were negatively associated with self-esteem and were positively associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms among Latino adults. These associations remained significant after accounting for perceptions of personal discrimination. In Study 3 I replicated these results with a sample of adult women. In addition, the results of Studies 2 and 3 suggest that perceived relative discrimination may be psychologically costly because it reduces individuals' feelings of competence. The results of my studies indicate that scholars should give greater attention to perceptions of relative discrimination in their efforts to understand the psychological costs associated with perceptions that one has been personally discriminated against. My results also draw attention to feelings of competence as a potential psychological process through which perceptions of relative discrimination are associated with negative psychological outcomes.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, General

Recommended Citation

Armenta, Brian E, "Perceived Discrimination and Psychological Well-being: Social Comparisons and Feelings of Belongingness and Competence" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3590966.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3590966

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