Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

de St. Aubin, Ed.

Second Advisor

Holly, Lindsay

Third Advisor

Grych, John


There is a strong foundation of research demonstrating the detrimental effects of discrimination on marginalized communities. Among Black women, microaggressions have been associated with greater psychological distress and poorer physical health. This project investigated the experience and impact of microaggressions on Black women, through a mixed-methods study design. This project drew from intersectionality theory to examine microaggressions that pertain to both race and gender simultaneously, without trying to parse them apart, while emphasizing participant and community empowerment. Participants were invited to share a story in which they experienced discrimination, as well as complete self-report survey measures to assess the frequency and stressfulness of gendered racial microaggressions, psychological well-being, and psychological distress. Grounded theory methodologies were utilized to develop themes and hypotheses from the interviews, which were analyzed along with quantitative measures to provide a rich, complex understanding of Black women’s experiences. Emergent themes included, the nature of the story and discrimination event, as well as emotion, appraisal, response, and meaning making. Findings indicated that participants who reported more frequent and stressful experiences of gendered racial microaggressions reported higher levels of psychological distress and somewhat poorer psychological well-being. In the context of their stories, participants who discussed feeling angry or disrespected were more likely to describe effective, resistance-based responses, and unlikely to describe inaction or avoidance responses, compared to participants who labelled feeling sadness, shame, fear/anxiety, or shock. Further, participants who reported feeling fear/anxiety or shock were most likely to engage in inaction or avoidance. There was some evidence that participants who described inaction or avoidance responses reported lower psychological well-being and higher distress. In contrast, participants who described responding with an active or symbolic form of resistance reported significantly higher levels of psychological well-being compared to those who did not and were more likely to talk about resilience as a meaning making theme. Interestingly, there was no difference in psychological well-being and psychological distress between participants who described feeling marginalized compared to those who described resilience. These rich findings demonstrate that gendered racial microaggressions are complex interpersonal stressors with immediate and long-term, cumulative consequences. Clinical implications are discussed.



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