Dissociation as coping: An examination of ethnic differences and race-related stress

Date of Completion

January 2004


Black Studies|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




Dissociation is proposed as a universal construct; however, research has indicated that rates of dissociation are not uniform across ethnic groups. Specifically, literature suggests that ethnic minorities report more dissociative experiences than ethnic majorities. Theorists have also proposed dissociation as a type of coping mechanism. Linking these two sets of findings, Dunn (1993) proposed that dissociation may serve an adaptive function for ethnic minorities, specifically African Americans, in managing race-related stress. The present investigation examines each of these theoretical assertions using an ethnically diverse non-clinical sample. The study investigates rates of dissociation as a function of ethnicity, explores the relationship between dissociation and coping, and tests Dunn's hypothesis by exploring the relationship between dissociation and reports of racial stress within ethnic minority participants. The findings provide partial support for the proposed hypotheses. Differences were found in rates of dissociation as a function of ethnicity supporting a previous study (Douglas, 2002). These differences were independent of trauma symptoms and traumatic symptomatology. Further, these differences are present in the absence of increased psychological distress. The findings also indicate a significant relationship between dissociation and coping strategies for ethnic minority and ethnic majority participants. The results fail to find statistically significant support for dissociation as a coping mechanism for race-related stress for ethnic minorities. Limitations and directions for future research, including further exploration of the role of ethnic identity are discussed. ^