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Role of Self-Worth Contingencies on Sleep Quality Due to Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms

Victoria Cambar, Depts. of Psychology and Criminal Justice, Ruth Laryea, and Bianca Owens and Chelsie Dunn, Dept. of Psychology Graduate Students, with Dr. Kristina Hood, Dept. of Psychology

Scholars have well documented the association on discrimination experiences, negative implications for both physical and psychological symptoms (Gee et al., 2007; Williams et al., 2008). According to Stone and Carlisle (2018), the experience of racial discrimination at the workplace may increase the likelihood of negative emotions and sadness. In addition, the occurrence of perceived discrimination experienced by African American undergrad students in college settings has been associated with psychological and emotional problems including depression (Chao, Mallinckrodt, & Wei, 2012). Subtle forms of discrimination in both the school and the workplace are predictors of negative physical health conditions like low energy levels and fatigue (Nadal et al., 2017). A notable variable that may play an influential role in the relationship between discrimination and depressive symptoms is one’s self-worth; but more specifically their self-worth contingencies. Such that, self-worth may also play a role in the link between discrimination and depression. Orth and Robins (2013) suggest that individuals with low self-esteem/worth are more likely to feel sad, lonely, and dejected. Contingent self-worth, the fluctuation of one’s self-worth in response to positive or negative experiences including the perceived approval or lack thereof of peers, has also shown to be a vulnerability factor for depression and depressive symptoms (Crocker & Knight, 2005; Crocker et al., 2003). According to Zahn and colleagues (2015) low self-worth and feelings of worthlessness, often appear to occur consistently with lack of energy. Therefore, the present study sought to examine the moderating role of contingent self-worth (i.e., others’ approval) on the link between experiences of discrimination at work or school and depressive symptoms after controlling for age, frequency of gendered racial discriminatory experiences, and gendered racial socializations. The current study consisted of 206 Black/African American women between the ages of 18 and 55 (M=33.24, SD=8.46). Majority of the sample was employed (97%) and about 30% 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, depressive symptoms (i.e., energy and emotion levels), and self-worth contingencies (i.e., self-worth based on others’ approval).

The moderation model was assessed via the PROCESS macro (Hayes, 2017) within SPSS v.26 using 5,000 bootstrapped samples. Moderation analysis revealed a statistically significant interaction between sleep quality due to discrimination and others’ approval-contingent self-worth on depressive symptoms (i.e., energy and emotions), b=-.07,SE=.04, 95% CI [-.14, -.01], p=.04. To interpret the statistically significant moderation effect, we used Hayes’s PROCESS v.3 (2017) Johnson-Neyman and bootstrap analysis. Findings revealed that others’ approval-contingent self-worth is a significant moderator of the link between sleep quality due to discrimination and depressive symptoms at higher levels of self-worth contingencies only (b=-.20,SE=.07, 95% CI [-.33, -.06], p=.00). More specifically, among those who higher self-worth contingencies, those who reported poor sleep quality due to discrimination reported greater depressive symptoms compared to those with better sleep quality. Findings could potentially enhance existing mental health interventions by increasing awareness of how discriminatory events impact sleep quality and depressive symptoms.

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Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Kristina Hood, Ph.D.


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

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VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


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Role of Self-Worth Contingencies on Sleep Quality Due to Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms