The influence of perspective-taking on stress during discrimination in interracial relationships

Abigail J. Caselli, Laura V. Machia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Interracial couples experience stressors that can negatively impact their relationship quality, such as racial discrimination. In dyads in which one partner identifies as White and the other identifies as Black or Hispanic, the stress due to racial discrimination is associated with differential alternatives: The White partner can end the relationship to stop their experience with the stress of racial discrimination, but Black or Hispanic partners cannot. As such, the White partner is a “weak link” in such relationships, and understanding processes that can mitigate discrimination-induced stress for White partners could be beneficial for interracial relationship longevity. In this study, we examined perspective-taking as a process to reduce momentary, discrimination-based stress. White partners in interracial relationships (N = 292) were randomly assigned to engage in perspective-taking (or remain objective) when imagining their partner experiencing discrimination (or a common aversive situation). We predicted, and found, that momentary stress was lower for White partners who took their partners’ perspectives while thinking about them experiencing racial discrimination than for those who objectively recounted the details of their partners’ experiencing racial discrimination. In turn, lower momentary stress predicted greater commitment and relationship satisfaction. This indicates that perspective-taking can reduce the momentary stress a White partner experiences during an event of racial discrimination, which may strengthen interracial relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Interracial relationships
  • close relationships
  • discrimination
  • momentary stress
  • perspective-taking
  • relationship quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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