External Stress of African American Heterosexual Married Couples



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There is a body of literature that consistently finds that African Americans have higher rates of perceived stress than their White counterparts; therefore, stress may be a compelling factor to consider among African American married couples. This study focused on identifying external stressors experienced by African American married couples. Furthermore, this study sought to understand if these stressors were perceived as taxing to African American married couples’, and how, if at all, the stress experienced impacted the couples’ relational functioning and perception. Ten self-identified African American heterosexual married couples aged 26 and older participated in the study. With the use of semi-structured interviews, couples participated in an individual and couple interview. Using the qualitative framework of Constructivist Grounded Theory, initial coding, constant comparative, and focused coding methods were used to obtain analytic categories synthesized to represent African American couples’ perception of the effect of external stress on their romantic relationships. To attend to rigor, an independent qualitative researcher was recruited to audit the codes, themes, and transcriptions, and a methodological journal was utilized throughout the data collection process. Results: The couples identified the external stressors of finances, work/career, grief, environment, extended family and parenting/co-parenting. Ten themes surfaced from the data, which revealed that stress often initially has negative implications for interpersonal interaction for African American couples; however, couples use cognitive (i.e., Divorce is not an option; Stress is inevitable) and behavioral strategies (i.e., Date night) to prevent stress from having long-term consequences on their relationship. African American married couples encounter external stressors that impact functioning. While couples develop positive strategies to safeguard their relationship, African American couples may benefit from continued social support and education on how to cope with stressors, as well as resources that assist in alleviating external stressors experienced.



African American married couples, Intimate relationships, Marriage