Testing a Self-Affirmation Intervention for Improving the Psychosocial Health of Black and White Medical Students in the US

Sylvia P. Perry, James E. Wages, Allison L. Skinner-Dorkenoo, Sara E. Burke, Rachel R. Hardeman, Sean M. Phelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Self-affirmation interventions have been shown to mitigate the negative psychological effects of stereotype threat on Black students in secondary and undergraduate education. However, there is currently limited research testing whether Black students in medical schools may also experience the negative influences of stereotype threat. Until now, it has been unclear whether Black (vs. White) students experience a lower sense of belonging in medical school and whether they can benefit from self-affirmation interventions during medical training. With a longitudinal field experiment, we tested (a) whether Black (vs. White) medical students in the US experience decrements in psychological well-being (i.e., fatigue, depression, anxiety), sense of belonging, perceived residency competitiveness, and residency goal stability; and (b) the extent to which a self-affirmation intervention would ameliorate any observed disparities in these outcomes for Black students. With a sample of 234 Black and 182 White medical students across 50 schools in the US, we found that Black students tended to report more fatigue and less belonging than White students; however, the self-affirmation intervention did not significantly influence students' fatigue, depression, anxiety, or belonging. Unexpectedly, Black students in the self-affirmation (vs. control) condition reported lower perceived competitiveness for residency. White students' perceived competitiveness for residency was unaffected by the intervention. Exploratory analyses revealed that Black (vs. White) students were less likely to indicate stable residency goals over time, which may be an indication of threat; however, this racial gap was eliminated with the intervention. We discuss the plausible reasons for these findings and provide recommendations for future work in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-800
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Volume77
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 18 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the of the National Institutes of Health under award number . Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development R21HD076603

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by?the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development?of the National Institutes of Health under award number?R21HD076603. The authors would like to thank Michelle van Ryn and John Dovidio for feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript and their contributions as Co-Investigators on NIH grant R21HD076603; Max Tiako for his feedback and insight on the ?residency goal stability? outcome; and Deborah Finstad and Jamison Odiet for their help with the data collection and data management process.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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