(Re)Membering Black Girls: A Theoretical and Multi-Method Examination of Mental Health and Wellness
Inniss-Thompson, Misha Nicole
Black girls in the United States experience several mental health issues, including suicidal behavior, as well as depressive and anxiety symptoms. However, knowledge about Black girls’ mental health is shaped by theoretical and conceptual approaches that are not culturally and contextually applicable to the simultaneous influence of their gendered and racialized experiences. There is also a need to expand methodological approaches that incorporate Black girls’ voices in the research design and analytical strategies utilized to create knowledge about their development. This manuscript-style dissertation aimed to provide an enriched examination of Black girls’ mental health by: (a) expanding conceptual and theoretical framing; and (b) applying quantitative and qualitative approaches to guide future research studies of Black girls’ development. Chapter 1, The Protective Role of Social Integration in African American Adolescent Girls’ Experiences of Racial Discrimination, examined the pathways through which racial discrimination was associated with mental health (depressive symptoms & perceived stress) using cross-sectional data from a nationally representative sample of 406 African American girls (Mage = 15). Results demonstrated that protective processes and factors such as racial identity, self-esteem, mastery, and indicators of family social integration offered important tools to mitigate the impact of racial discrimination on African American girls’ mental health symptomatology. Chapter 2, We Have Feelings Too: Visualizing Black Adolescent Girls’ Mental Health & Wellness Using Photovoice, examined how 18 Black adolescent girls (Mage = 16) described and visualized mental health and wellness using photovoice, a participatory methodology. Results demonstrated that Black girls: (a) recognize that wellness is interconnected; (b) engage in practices that enable them to navigate oppressive geopolitical spaces; and (c) seek and create spaces that support their wellness. Chapter 3, Visioning Black Girls into the Future: The Possibilities of Theory & Participatory Research, argued that centering Black girls’ epistemologies can enhance our theoretical, conceptual, and methodological approaches to strengthen our understanding of Black girls’ lived experiences. Realizing this vision requires: (a) acknowledging the tradition of epistemic violence that shapes what we know about Black girls; (b) utilizing critical theoretical frameworks, and (c) creating spaces that support Black girls’ development. Taken together, these studies offer important implications for research, preventive interventions, and policy.