Racial Microaggressions, Psychological Well-Being, and Ethnic Identification among People of Color in the U.S.

Imani R Whitfield, Pace University


Racial microaggressions are common, everyday slights and insults that have been associated with greater adverse psychological symptoms among people of color. Ethnic identification is the sense of belonging and connection people have with their ethnic group, which has been associated with greater psychological well-being among people of color. Research findings have been mixed about whether ethnic identification serves as a buffering moderator of effects of microaggressions on psychological outcomes. Further, many studies examining the impact of racial microaggressions have focused on adolescent or college student samples and members of one particular racial/ethnic group, with less work focused on adults of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. Continuing to explore associations among experiences of racial microaggressions, ethnic identification,-and mental health outcomes among adults of color from different racial/ethnic backgrounds is important to understanding how best to intervene to support people of color both in society at large as well as in clinical settings. In the following study, I explored racial/ethnic differences in experiences of racial microaggressions as well as associations of those experiences with well-being indicators (i.e., anger, anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, and life satisfaction) among a sample of adults of color living in the U.S. Further, I tested whether ethnic identification plays a buffering role as a moderator of associations of experiences of racial microaggressions with well-being outcomes. I hypothesized that people of color who experience more racial microaggressions would have poorer well-being (i.e., greater anger, anxiety symptoms, and depressive symptoms, as well as lower life satisfaction), that ethnic identifiation would be associated with greater well-being, and that ethnic identification would buffer individuals from the adverse consequences of microaggressions for well-being. This study utilized linear regression and bootstrap moderation -analyses to test these hypotheses. Mostly consistent with hypotheses, racial microaggressions were associated with great anger, anxiety symptoms, and depressive symptoms, but were not associated with life satisfaction. Inconsistent with hypotheses, ethnic identification did not moderate any associations of racial microaggressions with psychological well-being symptoms, and ethnic identification was also directly associated with greater anger and depressive symptoms. Additionally, racial/ethnic group differences were found in mean levels of different types of microaggressions experienced, as well as in associations of microaggressions with mental health outcomes, helping to understand the different consequences of racial microaggressions for diverse groups. Findings can inform societal and clinical interventions aimed at supporting well-being among people of color in the U.S. Keywords: anger, anxiety, depression, discrimination, ethnic identication, life satisfaction, racial microaggressions, racism, well-being

Subject Area

Social psychology|Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Whitfield, Imani R, "Racial Microaggressions, Psychological Well-Being, and Ethnic Identification among People of Color in the U.S." (2019). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI13918022.



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