Superwoman Schema: African American Women’s Views on Stress, Strength, and Health
AbstractResearchers have suggested that health disparities in African American women, including adverse birth outcomes, lupus, obesity, and untreated depression, can be explained by stress and coping. The Strong Black Woman/Superwoman role has been highlighted as a phenomenon influencing African American women’s experiences and reports of stress. The purpose of this study was to develop a preliminary conceptual framework for Superwoman Schema (SWS) by exploring women’s descriptions of the Superwoman role; perceptions of contextual factors, benefits, and liabilities; and beliefs regarding how it influences health. Analysis of eight focus group discussions with demographically diverse African American women yielded themes characterizing the Superwoman role and personal or sociohistorical contextual factors. Participants reported that the Superwoman role had benefits (preservation of self and family or community) and liabilities (relationship strain, stress-related health behaviors, and stress embodiment). The SWS framework might be used to enhance future research on stress and African American women’s health.