Racial discrimination is a common experience for African Americans in this country. Racial discrimination can have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of marital partners, as well the quality and stability of the relationship. Few studies investigate relational support as an important coping strategy. Bodenmann's (1995) divorce-stress model asserts that positive dyadic coping strategies such as relational support can buffer partners and marriages from the negative consequences of stress. Socio-emotional relational therapy (SERT) provides marital and family therapists with a model of relational support in couple relationships. SERT's definition formed the basis for the conceptualization of relational support in this study. Using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) and actor-partner interdependence models we tested two theoretical models. In the first model we investigated the buffering effect of relational support between racial discrimination and health. In the second model we tested the buffering effect of relational support between racial discrimination and marital stability. Findings suggest that relational support provides an important buffering effect from racial discrimination in African American marriages for husbands, but not wives. Relational support was associated with marital stability for husbands and wives and for the health of husbands. This study provides support for the gendered provision of support in marriage which tends to benefit men more than women. The findings provide support for further investigation into relational protective factors. Although wives' racial discrimination was negatively associated with their health, relational support did not buffer this association. Also since women do not seem to benefit from support in the relationship more research is needed to understand the factors that buffer them from the negative effects of racial discrimination on their health.

LLU Discipline

Marriage and Family Therapy


Counseling and Family Sciences


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Distelberg, Brian

Second Advisor

Baker, Winetta

Third Advisor

Bryant, Chalandra

Fourth Advisor

Knudson-Martin, Carmen

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2013

Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Race discrimination; Marital Therapy; Marriage; African Americans - Social conditions; Interpersonal Relationships; African Americans - Counseling of; African American - Psychology

Subject - Local

Socio-emotional relational therapy; Structural Equation Modeling; Relational Support; African-Americans



Page Count

142 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives