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The Role of Gendered Racial Microaggressions on African American Women's Sleep Quality

Shanya Chandel, Depts. of Psychology and Human Resource Management, and Ashlynn Bell and Chelsie Dunn, Dept. of Psychology Graduate Students, with Dr. Kristina Hood, Dept. of Psychology

African American women are often subjected to oppressive and marginalizing commentary directed toward various facet of their being. This subtle yet harmful oppressive commentary is commonly referred to as silencing and marginalizing gendered racial microaggressions (Lewis & Neville, 2015). These types of microaggressions can be expressed by silencing, meaning taking away the voices of others. Microaggressions can also be used to marginalize individuals in regard to physical appearance, stereotypes about behavior, and even sexually objectifying messages. While the deleterious effects (e.g., mental health, sleep quality) of the more overt workplace and academic discrimination have been previously established; little is known about the subtle, pervasive forms of discrimination (Whitaker, 2019). It is important to explore one’s sleep quality as adequate sleep allows for critical cognition, or the ability to think clearly, be alert, and sustain attention (Worley, 2018) – aspects essential for good workplace and academic performance. Previous work has established the link between discriminatory experiences and the sleep quality of African American adults (Fuller-Rowell et al., 2017; Owens et al., 2017). Additionally, frequent exposure to microaggressions can impact African American women’s bodily functioning, such as their sleep quality (Lewis, Williams, Peppers & Gadson, 2017). However, little to no research has examined the potential effects of silencing and marginalizing experiences on African American women, who experience a unique combination of racism and sexism in the workplace, school, or other professional settings. The present study sought to examine the moderating role of frequency of silencing and marginalizing gendered racial microaggressions (GRM) on the link between GRM stress appraisal and sleep quality due to discriminatory events after controlling for gendered racial socialization, sleep patterns, silencing behaviors, ethnic identity, and self-worth contingencies. The current study consisted of 229 Black/African American women between the ages of 18 and 55 (M=33.30,SD=8.49). Majority of the sample was employed (87%) and about 27% were enrolled in a two- or four-year university. Participants were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk and completed questions assessing their sleep quality due to discrimination, stress appraisal and experiences of GRM, ethnic identity, self-worth contingencies, and demographics.

The moderation model was assessed via the PROCESS macro (Hayes, 2018) within SPSS v.26 using 5,000 bootstrapped samples. Moderation analysis revealed a statistically significant interaction between GRM frequency and stress appraisal on sleep quality due to discrimination, b=.05, SE=.02, 95% CI [.00, .10], p=.05. To interpret the statistically significant moderation effect, we used Hayes’s PROCESS v.3 (2017) Johnson-Neyman and bootstrap analysis. Findings revealed that GRM frequency is a significant moderator of the link between GRM stress appraisal and sleep quality due to discrimination at both higher (b=.25, SE=.05, 95% CI [.14, .36], p=.00) and lower (b=.12, SE=.05, 95% CI [.02, .23], p=.02) frequencies. More specifically, among those who higher frequency of GRM events, those who reported greater stress appraisal of GRM events reported poor sleep quality due to discrimination compared to those with lower stress appraisal. This positive relationship was also true for those who reported lower frequency of GRM events. Findings could potentially enhance existing mental health interventions by increasing awareness of how silencing and marginalizing experiences at work or school impact sleep quality among African American women.

Publication Date


Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Kristina Hood, Ph.D.


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

The Role of Gendered Racial Microaggressions on African American Women's Sleep Quality