Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Kevin W. Allison


Cultural and social influences on mental and physical health are increasingly recognized by social science researchers. Researchers have found that specific, Afrocultural factors are related to the functioning of African Americans. The current research considered whether interdependence is especially salient for African American women since women and African Americans tend to define themselves within the context of social relationships. The study outlines processes affecting the mental and physical health of African American women including communalism, collective efficacy, and social capital. The also study examined the relationship between socioeconomic status and both mental and physical health among African American women in a low-income residential area. The effect of social capital and collective efficacy on mental and physical health above income was analyzed using hierarchical regression. One-hundred-thirty African-American women in a low-income area of Richmond, Virginia completed surveys between October 2002 and October 2004 measuring social capital, collective efficacy and general health and mental health. Level of education served as a proxy for socioeconomic status. The study's central hypothesis was that social capital and collective efficacy, an indicator of social capital, would moderate rather than mediate the association between socioeconomic status and the outcome variables in this population due to the importance of relationships in the African American culture and in the lives of women. Both moderation and mediation models were tested. Significant relationships were found between income and both physical health and mental health. There were no significant relationships found between social capital and physical health, mental health, or socioeconomic status and mediation was not established. The results also did not establish social capital as a moderator between socio-economic status and the outcome variables. This lack of relationship may be related to several factors including the homogeneity of the sample in terms of socioeconomic status and challenges associated with the use of a new measure for social capital. Meaningful comparisons of social capital between socioeconomic levels could not be made.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons