Domestic Abuse May Affect African American and Caribbean Black Women Differently

Krim K. Lacey, PhD Research Fellow, Research Center for Group Dynamics Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA) Institute for Social Research University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MIMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Krim K. Lacey, PhD
Research Fellow, Research Center for Group Dynamics
Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA)
Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Lacey: The main findings from this nationally representative study were that U.S. Black women abused by a domestic partner, on a whole were vulnerable to various negative physical and mental health problems.

While the findings of the study support the few previous studies conducted on women within this population, this study was the first population-based, predominantly black sample that used structured clinical assessments. Importantly, the study substantiates other arguments that the Black population is not culturally monolithic, that African American and Caribbean Black women are affected differently by severe intimate partner violence.

Another key finding was the association identified between eating disorders and intimate partner violence, which in general, has been largely underexplored.

Finally, the study provided national information on the health outcomes of Caribbean Black women; one of the fastest growing subgroups within the Black population.

MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Lacey: As I mentioned, we found differences in physical and mental health outcomes between abused African American and Caribbean Black women. Substantively, intimate partner violence was associated with poor physical health, dysthymia, alcohol dependence and drug abuse for African American women. Among Caribbean women, intimate partner violence was associated with binge eating. These were two possible coping and response outcomes that we did not anticipate finding and that can have significant impact on women’s health in varying ways.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Lacey: It is important for clinicians to recognize the noted differences in outcomes/responses among these different cultural groups. Although the study suggests the consequences of violence may be greater for African American victims than Caribbean Blacks. For instance, substance use was associated with intimate partner violence and may be an immediate method used by African American women in dealing with their experience. Caribbean women may use more culturally acceptable ways of dealing with violence, which may be in the form of binge eating. Therefore, clinicians should not only recognize these potential differences in coping mechanisms among women, but develop more culturally appropriate interventions in addressing them.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Lacey: In addition to greater awareness for the differences that exist among populations within racial groups, it is also important to give more recognition to social, cultural environment, and contextual factors that influence abuse while exacerbating the health conditions. These factors may be a source of barriers for intervention and treatment of women who experience violence by an intimate partner.

Citation:

Severe Physical Violence and Black Women’s Health and Well-Being
Krim K. Lacey, PhD, Karen Powell Sears, PhD, Niki Matusko, BS, and James S. Jackson, PhD
American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.301886