Stress spillover, african americans' couple and health outcomes, and the stress-buffering effect of family-centered prevention

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


This study investigated (a) the stress spillover pathways linking contextual stressors, changes in couple relationship functioning and depressive symptoms, and changes in individuals' physical health, and (b) the stress-buffering effect of participation in an efficacious, family centered prevention program designed to protect couples from the deleterious effects of stressors. The sample consisted of 346 rural African American couples (63% married) who participated in a randomized controlled trial of the Protecting Strong African American Families (ProSAAF) program. Participants were assessed at three time points across 17 months. Results examining stress spillover within the control group indicated that elevated current, but not prior, financial hardship was associated with decreased effective communication, relationship satisfaction, and relationship confidence as well as increased depressive symptoms; current levels of racial discrimination also predicted greater depressive symptoms. Relationship confidence and relationship satisfaction, but not communication or depressive symptoms, in turn predicted declines in self-reported physical health. Results examining stress-buffering effects suggested that participation in ProSAAF protected individuals' relationship confidence from declines associated with elevated financial hardship. In addition, the indirect effect linking financial hardship to declines in physical health through relationship confidence that emerged among participants in the control group was no longer evident for ProSAAF couples. Results highlight the effect of contextual stressors on African Americans' couple and individual well-being and the potential for the ProSAAF program to provide a constructed resilience resource, protecting couple's confidence in their relationship from the negative effects of financial hardship and, consequently, promoting physical health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-196
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded in part by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant R01 HD069439) and from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant P30 DA027827). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • African American
  • Financial hardship
  • Health
  • Prevention
  • Stress


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