Can Family Relationships Explain the Race Paradox in Mental Health?

New research by a Rutgers medical sociologist refutes perceptions that black Americans’ lower rate of mental health problems stems from stronger family and church ties. It’s been well-documented that blacks are less susceptible to mental and emotional disorders, like anxiety and depression, despite the fact that they have higher rates of chronic and infectious diseases, says Dawne Mouzon, an assistant professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. But there has been little or no research explaining the the discrepancy, says Mouzon. Instead, experts have attributed the gap to blacks’ strong family ties and bonds within the church, Mouzon says. Her research shows that neither of these factors insulate blacks from mental health problems, and she believes her study raises questions about whether standard diagnostic tools are flawed when applied to blacks and could prevent them from getting the help they need. “If we make these assumptions and don’t critically examine them, then we might be missing people who need support,’ says Mouzon. Her study, Can Family Relationships Explain the Race Paradox in Mental Health?, published this month in the Journal of Marriage and Family, shows that the amount of support and emotional intimacy in black and white families is nearly equivalent, along with their number of church-based social relationships.

Population of focus: Black Americans

Link to resource:

Date: 2013

Organization: Rutgers University

Reference: Mouzon, D. M. (2013), Can Family Relationships Explain the Race Paradox in Mental Health?. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75: 470–485. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12006