The Effects of Race on Life Narratives

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The Effects of Race on Life Narratives
Samantha Nicholas, Cary Menifee, and Kelly Bednar
Hanover College
PSY 346: Adulthood and Aging
Fall 2012

Abstract
This study was designed to examine the effects of race on life narratives. Participants (N=12, 41.6% female) completed a nine question “life story” interview derived from McAdams (2008). Using a t-test we found there were no overall significant differences between life narratives of African-Americans and Caucasians in regards to positivity/negativity (p>.05) or redemptive imagery (p>.05). We did, however, find a significant difference when participants were asked to tell a story about a turning point in their life. Caucasian participants all told a positive story, whereas their African-American counterparts did not (p= .01).

The Effects of Race on Life Narratives
As a nation, we have come so far in improving the civil rights of African Americans. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s was a significant turning point in this nation’s history. In 1964 the Equal Employment Opportunity law was passed which prevented anyone from not hiring an individual based on race and sex. Today the law has been expanded to include the prohibition of discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age in hiring, promoting, firing, setting wages, testing, training, apprenticeship, and all other terms and conditions of employment” (National Archives). The inspiring influence of African American leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcom X, and Rosa Parks, has propelled change and helped make things more equal for all citizens of this country. The election of our first African American president is a significant indicator of how much things have changed. However, race is still an issue in many aspects of African Americans’ lives. “Compared with other racial/ethnic groups, Blacks or African Americans are at greater risk for experiencing life stress and adversity” (Baldwin, Jackson, Okoh, & Cannon, 2010). They also “tend to experience greater unfair treatment” (Baldwin, et al., 2010). Discrimination can lead to more stress in their everyday lives. On top of the stress that they would feel from work, money, relationships, and family, they could also feel the stress of having to prove themselves competent at their job more so than their Caucasian counterparts. Discrimination can also lead to overall lower happiness levels among African Americans. According to Aldous and Ganey (1999) “whites [indicated] more personal happiness than did Blacks, even controlling for socioeconomic status”. McKenzie, et al. (1987) tells us that “Education, minority status, perceived health status, and problems experienced are statistically significant as direct predictors of happiness”. Discrimination would still occur because even though explicit prejudice in this country is significantly lower, implicit prejudice is around. African Americans compared to Caucasians were found to be “over 1.5 times more likely to be impoverished, to live in a census tract meeting the federal definition of poverty area (.= 20% of persons below poverty, to rent where they lived, to have received public assistance in the last year as well as when a, to have not graduated from high school, and to have parents/guardians who had not graduated from high school” (Krieger, & Samuel, (2011). Using an Implicit Attitude Test towards race, Kreiger, et al. (2011) also found that African Americans were twice as like to be victims of discrimination. Caucasians were also significantly more likely to have a “me versus them” attitude. Caucasians viewed African Americans as separate groups as opposed to viewing everyone as a whole. The stress that African Americans feel has a variety of negative impacts on their lives. Research shows that the “daily experiences of discrimination are related to poor physical health, reduced well-being, and increased psychological...
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