Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

The Relationship of Prejudicial Attitudes to Psychological, Social, and Physical Well-Being within a Sample of College Students in the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

The Relationship of Prejudicial Attitudes to Psychological, Social, and Physical Well-Being within a Sample of College Students in the United States

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study examined the relationship of prejudicial attitudes to psychological, social, and physical well-being among 495 college students in the Northeast region of the United States. Prejudicial attitudes included racism, sexism, homophobia, physical disability bias, weight/body-size bias, and anti-immigrant sentiment. As a secondary objective, we examined the associations among the various forms of prejudice and their relationship to key demographic and personal characteristics. We also examined the associations between psychological, social, and physical well-being. The results indicated that specific forms of prejudice, especially racism and sexism, were negative correlates of psychological, social, and/or physical well-being. The results also indicated that there may exist a prejudicial syndrome, linking diverse forms of prejudice. Furthermore, poor functioning in one area of well-being (e.g., psychological health) is related to poor functioning in other areas of well-being (social and physical health). Overall, this study provides important implications for future research and prevention programs in the area of prejudice and well-being.

Key Words: College Students, USA, Prejudicial Attitudes, Psychological, Social and Physical Well-Being

In an increasingly globalized society, diverse groups of people are learning to work together, yet prejudice and discrimination are still a major issue in the United States. Racism (Sydell & Nelson, 2000; Worthington, Navarro, Loewy, & Hart, 2008), sexism (Avery, McKay, & Wilson, 2008; Tougas, Brown, Beaten, & Joly, 1995), and homophobia (Talley & Bettencourt, 2008) are not new forms of discrimination, but are still ever-present and need further investigation. Other forms of prejudice, such as physical disability bias (Louvet, 2007; Stevens, 2002), weight or body-size bias (Fikkan & Rothblum, 2005), and anti-immigrant sentiment (Hitlian, Carrillo, Zarate, & Aikman, 2007) have received relatively less attention but also need investigation. All areas of prejudice, whether overt or covert, need to be examined as they have the potential for negative consequences for individuals and society.

Expectedly, most research has focused on the targets of prejudice and discrimination as individuals on the receiving end may experience psychological (Fischer & Holz, 2007; Hwang & Goto, 2008; Rivers, 2004) and physical health problems (Gee, Spencer, Chen, & Takeuchi, 2007) and/or bodily harm, including death. But on the other end, do individuals who harbor prejudicial attitudes also suffer from psychological, social, and / or physical health problems? The present study investigated this question within a sample of college students.

Demographie and Personal Characteristics of Individuals with Prejudicial Views

Previous research has examined characteristics of individuals who hold prejudicial views. Demographic characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, gender, and educational level, have been shown to be associated with specific forms of prejudice. For example, Carter and colleagues (2006) found that White males, as compared to women and African Americans, were more likely to accept and use racist stereotypes, which was then positively correlated with racist sentiment. White males were also more likely to discriminate against those who are obese (Latner, Stunkard, & Wilson, 2005). Individuals with more education and more non-White friends were more likely to express proimmigrant attitudes (Berg, 2009).

Personal characteristics, such as self-esteem, religiosity, and sense of nationalism have been shown to be correlates of prejudicial attitudes. For self-esteem, Garriott, Love, and Tyler (2008) found that White students who reported a higher level of racial superiority and prejudice also reported a lower level of self-esteem, which in turn negatively affected their social adjustment. Furthermore, individuals with low self-esteem may be more likely to discriminate against minority groups as a defense mechanism (Jordan, Spencer, & Zanna, 2005), which may help elevate their own self-esteem. …

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