Religious coping, stigma, and psychological functioning among African American HIV-positive women

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Religious coping, stigma, and psychological functioning among African American HIV-positive women

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Title: Religious coping, stigma, and psychological functioning among African American HIV-positive women
Author: Hickman, Enith Elise
Abstract: African American women represent the fastest-growing group living with HIV in the United States. In addition to the stressors that are brought on by a HIV diagnosis, many African American women who are HIV-positive are already struggling with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as HIV-related stigma and discrimination. At the same time, African American women living with HIV regard spirituality and religion as important part of their lives and as a resource to cope with the stressors of HIV. The present study examined the role of religious coping in psychological distress and adjustment both cross-sectionally and longitudinally among 141 HIV-positive African American women participating in a community program designed to address their mental and physical health needs. Demographic information and measures of physical health, mental health, psychiatric symptoms severity, depression, clinician-rated functioning, stigma/discrimination, social support, coping, religious coping, and religious and spiritual activities and attitudes were assessed at baseline and 12 months later. As predicted, cross-sectional analyses showed that negative religious coping was associated with greater psychiatric symptom severity and depression, poorer mental health and clinician-rated functioning, and greater perceptions of stigma and discrimination. Longitudinal analyses revealed that greater negative religious coping at baseline significantly predicted greater changes in mental health in a negative direction 12 months later over and above treatments received. Contrary to expectations, positive religious coping was not associated with any measures of psychological well-being, nor did it predict any mental health outcomes at 12 months. However, participants who experienced high levels of HIV-related stigma and reported high levels of positive religious coping were less depressed than those who reported lower levels of positive religious coping. These results suggest that for this population, negative religious coping was a more salient determinant of psychological distress than positive religious coping was of psychological health. These results have implications for working with this population, so that clinicians may want to assess for the presence of negative religious coping and encourage exploration of spirituality and religiosity as it relates to an HIV diagnosis.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Psychology. The Catholic University of AmericaThis dissertation can be viewed by CUA users only.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1961/10134
Date: 2012-02-15


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