Ethnic Disparities in Trauma-Related Mental Illness: Is Ethnic Identity a Buffer?

Tiffany G. Townsend, Stacey Kaltman, Farzana Saleem, Dionne S. Coker-Appiah, Bonnie L. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Despite evidence that racial and ethnic characteristics influence the impact of traumatic exposure on psychological health, little is known about how race and ethnic identity can alter, and possibly protect against, the effects of trauma on the psychiatric diagnoses of women. Therefore, the present study examined the moderating role of race/ethnicity and ethnic identity in the link between trauma exposure and psychiatric diagnosis for African American and Caucasian college women. Participants were a sample of 242 women from the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States who self-identified as African American or Black (31%) and European American or Caucasian (69%; M age = 19.5 years). Interviews were conducted over the phone to screen for trauma, followed by longer in-person interviews. Each of the interviewers was supervised, and interviews were reviewed to control for quality. Regression analyses revealed that the number of traumatic events was a stronger predictor of lifetime psychiatric diagnoses for Caucasian women. In addition, ethnic identity served as a protective factor against trauma exposure among participants. The findings suggest that ethnic identity is a relevant buffer against potential psychiatric diagnoses as result of exposure to traumatic events for both Caucasian and African American women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2164-2188
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • African American women
  • ethnic disparities
  • ethnic identity
  • protective factors
  • trauma exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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