Norman, R. L., & Tang, M. (2016). Investigating occupational stress, racial identity, and mentoring for African American women in health care. Journal of Employment Counseling, 53(1), 2–13. https://doi.org/10.1002/joec.12024HYPOTHESIS/RESEARCH QUESTION:
There was no stated hypothesis in this study. The research question was to investigate if racial identity, occupational positions, educational level, and mentoring influence the level of occupational stress for African American women, given the influence of racial identity and mentoring on African Americans.
VARIABLES AND MEASURES:
A demographic questionnaire was used and included questions about age, race, marital status, occupation, education, and mentoring. The women were categorized into three groups- professional/managerial, technical/sales/admin/clerical, and service based on their position titles. There were six questions regarding their mentoring relationships and the race and gender of the mentor and were required to rate their mentors on a favorability scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being low and 5 being high.
Black Racial Identity Attitudes Scales (RIAS-B) (Helms & Parham, 1990) was used to assess levels of black identity by assessing the individual’s affective connection to African Americans and awareness of social implications of race. The scale consists of 50 items which are responded to by using a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The subscales are scored in a way to receive scores for the four stages of racial identity attitudes, with the score correlating positively to the degree of that racial attitude. The reliability was tested using Cronbach’s alpha and was .76 for Preencounter, .51 for Encounter, .69 for Immersion/Emersion, and .80 for Internalization.
The Occupational Stress Inventory-Revised (OSI-R) (Osipow, 1998) was used to measure the three dimensions of role stress, psychological strain, and personal resources. The internal reliability coefficient is high for each of its domains and individual scales, ranging from .70 to .89. The Occupational Role Questionnaire (ORQ) consists of 60 items and measures role stress via six scales of role overload, role insufficiency, role ambiguity, role boundary, responsibility, and physical environment. The internal consistency measure was .88 for ORQ. The Psychological Strain Questionnaire (PSQ) consists of 40 items and measures psychological strain via four scales of vocational strain, psychological strain, interpersonal strain, and physical strain. The internal consistency measure was .93 for PSQ. The Personal Resources Questionnaire (PRQ) consists of 40 items and measures personal resources via four scales of recreation, self-care, social support, and rational/cognitive coping. The internal consistency measure was .89 for PRQ. The test-retest reliability was .39 for the self-care and .74 for the total PSQ score. High scores on ORD and PSQ indicate high levels of occupational stress and a high score on PRQ indicates highly developed resources for coping. All the items are responded to using a 5 point Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 (rarely/never) to 5 (true most of the time).
The sample included 76 African American women who were from a health care organization in the Midwest belonging to three different occupational groups- professional/managerial (22.4%), technical/sales/admin/clerical (26.3%), and service (50%) with 1.3% of the sample not disclosing their occupation.
39.5% of the sample had some college education, 22.4% of the sample had high school/GED education, 10.5% of the sample had a bachelor’s degree, 9.2% of the sample had less than high school education, 3.9% of the sample had a master’s degree, 1.3% of the sample had a doctoral degree, and 13.2% of the sample did not disclose their education.
39.5% of the sample was between the age group of 36-45 years, 21.1% of the sample was between the age group of 46-55 years, 9.2% of the sample was between the age group of 18-25 years, and 18.4% of the sample was between the age group of 26-35 years. 11.8% of the sample did not disclose their age.
Over 80% of the sample was employed full-time, 11% of the sample was working part-time, and the rest of the sample did not disclose their employment status.
13.2% of the sample (Ten women) had a mentor from the same race and gender, except one woman who had a mentor from the same race, but a different gender.
The research was conducted in six hospitals within a nonprofit health care organization.
Potential African American women participants were identified by first getting in touch with the female managers.
The RIAS-B, OSI-R, and the demographic survey were distributed during the meetings with the employees, and there was an attempt to have the participants fill the information in person. If not, they were to complete it and mail it back it to the office.
The instruments were given and disclosure statement highlighting the purpose of the study, instructions and confidentiality information was explained during the meeting which usually lasted from 30-60 minutes.
Time was given to the participants to ask question and have an option of receiving the study’s results.
18 meetings were held and 196 participants were given the survey packets. 76 women returned their surveys, indicting a return rate of 40%.
DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS:
Descriptive statistics were computed to get information about African American women’s racial identity among different occupational groups.
Correlations and multiple regression analyses were also conducted to test the relationship between racial identity, educational level, mentoring, and occupational stress.
According to Helmes (1990), there are four stages of racial identity- preencounter, encounter, immersion/emersion and internalization, with preencounter being the initial stage and internalization being the highest stage. The results showed 75% (57 participants) to be in the internalization stage of racial identity.
The results indicated racial identity to be negatively correlated to role stress (r = -.28, p <.05) and psychological strain (r = -.30, p <.05).
Level of education was positively correlated the women’s ability to access personal resources (r = .29, p ;.05), indicating that a higher level of education meant a greater ability to utilize personal resources by the woman.
The results also indicated there to be a positive correlation between psychological strain and role stress (r = .62, p ;.001), and a negative correlation between psychological strain and personal resources (r = -.63, p ;.001).
A standard multiple regression was also conducted to predict if racial identity, level of education, and experience of mentoring would predict the level of occupational stress.
The results indicated that racial identity significantly contributed to psychological strain (t = 2.20, p = .03) and role stress (t = -2.13, p = .04), and level of education contributed to personal resources (t = 2.20, p = .03).
The results indicate that a woman’s racial development was negatively correlated to occupational role stress and likelihood of experiencing psychological strain. The level of education was positively correlated to the woman’s ability to make use of personal resources, indicating the capacity to develop support networks which is a key factor in dealing with occupational stress for African American women (Catalyst, 2004).
There was no significant difference between those who had a mentor and those who did not have a mentor, and mentoring was not related to any of the subscales, probably because of the low number of participants with a mentor in the sample.
Not easy to generalize the results since the study took place in an urban, hospital setting in the Midwest. Hard to compare these results with individuals who don’t share the same demographics as in the study.
There were very few women with mentors who were involved in the study which may have contributed to the lack of statistical significance in the impact of mentoring on the occupational stress in African American women employees in the results.
RAIS-B and OSI-R were self-report measures and demand characteristics may have played a role in the responses given by women to look more or less favorable.
Even though the study was conducted in an urban setting, it was conducted across occupational groups, increasing the generalizability of the results.
Multiple analyses including descriptive statistics, correlation as well as multiple regression was conducted increasing the validity of the results.
The study is recent (2016) and indicates the strong influence of race on the occupational stress level of an African American woman showing the urgent need to incorporate race in the development of interventions on individual, group, organization and industry level to create a workspace that is more inclusive of diversity.