A Comparative Exploration of Depressive Symptomatology among Black and White Collegiate Women

Conference Strand

Research and Theory


Minimal research on depression exists that considers the intersection of race and gender during emerging adulthood, a period of life known to have unique stressors and intensive social identity development. This comparative study found that Black females reported greater amounts of depressive symptomatology (M = 24.61) compared to White females (M = 15.68), (F (1,377) = 61.434, p < .001).


Depression is closely linked to the level of stress that an individual perceives and experiences in their daily life. Continuous, often referred to as chronic, stress can cause a variety of physical and mental health problems, including depression. Higher rates of depression have been found amongst women, emerging adults, and racial minorities. Thus, when studying depression, we also must consider the specific stressors that may trigger or worsen depression for various demographic groups. The purpose of this study is to explore racial differences and other contributing factors in the prevalence of clinical depression for emerging adult women that are enrolled in a college or university. Little is known about the racial disparities in mental health specifically for this age group, but the unique stressors associated with this developmental stage of life necessitate their own body of research. Three hundred and sixty-nine self-identified emerging adult Black and White women (Mage = 19.67, SD = 11.751). completed an online survey during a 3-year time period. All participants were currently attending a four-year college or university. The racial breakdown of the sample was 61% self-identified White females (n = 234) and 39% self-identified Black females (n = 149). Black collegiate women reported significantly higher levels of perceived stress and symptoms of depression in comparison to White collegiate women. Chi-Squared analyses revealed that where 1 in 5 White females in the current sample met criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, an alarming 1 in 2 Black females met criteria for MDD. Given that race is a social construction with no biological merit, this finding calls attention to the contextual sociological factors that are contributing to the development of the depression instead of the just individual biological causes.


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Tables and Graphs

Table 1. Self-reported sample Sociodemographics for Undergraduate Women (N=383)

Black (n=149)

White (n=234)





Class Year

First year/Freshman





Second year/Sophomore





Third year/Junior





Fourth year/Senior





Fifth year or beyond






Work full time





Work part time





Work part-time and full time student





Unemployed and student





Meets criteria for MDD











Meets criteria for Dysthymia











*Indicates Missing Data

Table 2.

Correlates and Means of Sociodemographic and Psychosocial Variables for Undergraduate Women (N = 383)




1. Depressive Symptomatology

2. Perceived Stress


3. Age



*p < .05, **p < .01


























Individual Presentations

Biographical Sketch

Buffie Longmire-Avital, Ph.D – is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the coordinator of the African, African-American Studies program at Elon University. Dr. Longmire-Avital received her Bachelors of Science degree from Lafayette College and her Doctoral degree in Applied Developmental Psychology from New York University’s Steinhardt School for the Study of Culture, Education and Human Development. She received a NIDA-funded post-doctoral fellowship to train at both the National Development Research Institutes and the Center for HIV/AIDS Education, Studies and Training affiliated with Hunter College. Dr. Longmire-Avital’s numerous scholarly articles reflect her primary research focus, which is on the psychosocial development and health behaviors of emerging adult Black American females. Specifically, she examines sexual health communication strategies and the relationships between chronic race-related stress, depression, and eating habits.


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2-17-2017 10:45 AM

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Feb 17th, 10:45 AM Feb 17th, 12:00 PM

A Comparative Exploration of Depressive Symptomatology among Black and White Collegiate Women

Room 212

Minimal research on depression exists that considers the intersection of race and gender during emerging adulthood, a period of life known to have unique stressors and intensive social identity development. This comparative study found that Black females reported greater amounts of depressive symptomatology (M = 24.61) compared to White females (M = 15.68), (F (1,377) = 61.434, p < .001).