Examining Racial Microaggressions from an Attachment Theory Framework: Contributions of Attachment Security, Defensive Self-Esteem, and Ethnic-Racial Identity as a Product of Ethnic-Racial Socialization

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2016-08

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Abstract

The experience of racial microaggressions negatively influences mental health in individuals. However, to date, little is known about individual differences that may contribute to an individual's experience of racial microaggressions. Attachment Theory (Ainsworth, 1969; Bowlby 1982/1969), which incorporates developmental and relational perspectives, may serve as an appropriate framework for examining such contributions. Thus, the present study was guided by Racial Microaggressions Theory (Sue et al., 2007) and Attachment Theory. Supported by results of a pilot study, the present study proposed to test two models that included attachment-related constructs, the constructs of defensive self-esteem, and ethnic-racial self-esteem to better explain the relationships between attachment and the perception of racial microaggressions in racially diverse students from the University of Houston. The models were slightly modified as the proposed models were not supported. Results of the modified models for the overall sample suggested direct and indirect relationships between attachment-related variables, defensive self-esteem, ethnic-racial self-esteem, and racial microaggressions indicating that these variables contribute to an individual's perception and experience of racial microaggressions. The results imply the appropriateness of Attachment theory as a framework to use when understanding individual experiences of racial microaggressions. Thus, clinical implications include using theory-guided interventions with individuals experiencing race-related distress are discussed. Limitations of the present study and future directions for research are also indicated.

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Keywords

Racial microaggressions, Attachment, Defensive self-esteem, Ethnic-racial identity, Ethnic-racial socialization

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