Sociology, Department of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts Major: Sociology Under the Supervision of Professor Bridget J. Goosby Lincoln, Nebraska November, 2010 Copyright 2010 Lesa A. Johnson


A considerable body of research focuses on the mental health of black women with low socioeconomic status. Social scientists have noted that women in low socioeconomic status groups often utilize social networks to provide protection and survival in dense and depressed communities. Still, some social scientists also suggest that the bounded solidarity of kinship networks decreases chances for women to pursue opportunities for economic mobility by creating stressful and time consuming obligations for reciprocity. Though many qualitative and community quantitative studies have been conducted regarding social support and survival among low income women, few quantitative studies have addressed variation in these networks by socioeconomic status and their association with psychological distress. This research paper seeks to expound upon the empirical research on social support among black women by focusing on its relationship to mental health. Using data from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), a nationally representative survey designed to contextually explore mental disorders and psychological distress of African and Caribbean Black Americans, I investigate the associations between socioeconomic status, various means of social support, and mental health for African American, Afro-Caribbean, and white women in the United States.