Term of Award

Winter 2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

C. Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 1

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 2

Rebecca Ryan


Skin color biases, henceforth referred to as colorism, are the biased judgments, attitudes and behaviors toward an individual based on the lightness or darkness of their skin. Available research on the topic has examined a select group of variables, such as mate selection, self-esteem and perceived attractiveness. However, there is no single study on differences between African-Americans across several domains, including their psychological (skin color satisfaction and self-esteem), sociocultural (media influence on appearance and discriminatory events), and developmental (ethnic identity) well-being. Moreover, there is no research on differences in these variables between African-Americans reared in rural versus non-rural areas. To examine this, 218 African-American participants were asked to complete several measures assessing their perceived skin color, rural status, and the psychological, sociocultural, and developmental variables mentioned above. Results showed that there were no differences in these variables between light-skinned and dark-skinned African-Americans and those reared in rural versus non-rural areas. Results did indicate gender differences on skin color satisfaction and an interaction of skin color and rural status on media influence on appearance. The current findings suggest that despite the pervasiveness of colorism, there may be protective cultural factors present that help African-Americans overcome some of the adverse effects of skin color biases and discrimination such as racial socialization, self-esteem, and ethnic identity. Future research should focus on exploring these protective factors and the development of skin color discrimination assessments.