Racial discrimination and relationship functioning among African American couples

Justin A. Lavner, Allen W. Barton, Chalandra M. Bryant, Steven R.H. Beach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Racial discrimination is a common stressor for African Americans, with negative consequences for mental and physical well-being. It is likely that these effects extend into the family, but little research has examined the association between racial discrimination and couple functioning. This study used dyadic data from 344 rural, predominantly low-income heterosexual African American couples with an early adolescent child to examine associations between self-reported racial discrimination, psychological and physical aggression, and relationship satisfaction and instability. Experiences of discrimination were common among men and women and were negatively associated with relationship functioning. Specifically, men reported higher levels of psychological aggression and relationship instability if they experienced higher levels of racial discrimination, and women reported higher levels of physical aggression if they experienced higher levels of racial discrimination. All results replicated when controlling for financial hardship, indicating unique effects for discrimination. Findings suggest that racial discrimination may be negatively associated with relationship functioning among African Americans and call for further research on the processes underlying these associations and their long-term consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)686-691
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Award R01 HD069439 to Steven R. H. Beach funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and by Award P30 DA027827 to Gene H. Brody funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors thank the families for their willingness to participate in this research and the staff at the Center for Family Research for their assistance implementing this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • African American couples
  • Aggression
  • Racial discrimination
  • Relationship functioning


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