Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Co-chair

Gyda Swaney, Kimberly Wallace

Commitee Members

Jennifer Waltz, Paul Silverman, Cheryl Van Denburg


Coping Behaviors, Cross-Cultural Coping, Native American Elderly, Racism, Resilience


University of Montana


The present study explored how racism-related stress was characterized by respondents and investigated the ways in which these respondents coped with this type of stress. Using content analysis, four broad themes of race-related stress emerged: 1) Institutional, 2) Intergroup, 3) Bicultural, and 4) Intragroup. Race-related coping strategies, which included the cognitive, emotional and behavioral strategies respondents used to reduce and/or manage their experiences of racism, were also explored. Eight overarching coping strategies were described: 1) Taking action, 2) Acceptance, 3) Escaping, 4) Collective coping, 5) Meaning making, 6) Affective coping, 7) "Returning to what Indians did before", and 8) Creative coping. This work has important implications given the evidence that suggests that racism is a unique source of stress that contributes to the reduced quality of life for racial/ethnic minorities as well as to the race/ethnicity-based disparities in mental and physical health. As such, this study begins to expand our awareness of the sources of race-related stress among this population as well as begins to improve our understanding of the coping strategies that are effective in helping these Native American individuals cope with racism. In the present analysis, results were compared to the existing race-related stress and coping literature in an effort to understand the unique and common experiences of racism across different racial/ethnic minority groups. The findings indicated that for this sample of Native American older adults the welfare of the group/tribe and maintaining a sense of belonging to the group were important values that influenced coping behaviors. These findings suggest that appropriate and effective clinical and social interventions for this population should take into account the values, attitudes and customs of a Native American worldview that recognizes the central importance of belongingness/interconnectedness. However given that this study did not specifically ask about racism, future studies will need to employ a more direct line of questioning since it is quite possible that specific questions regarding respondents' experiences with racism could lead to different and/or more complete responses.



© Copyright 2011 Rita Haidle Billow