Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Dr. Michelle Brown

First Reader

Curtisha Shacklewood

Second Reader

Curtisha Shacklewood


Most research into trauma-related mental health concerns has focused predominantly on European American participants, leading to many African American individuals receiving inaccurate diagnoses, if they are able to receive diagnoses at all. This project sought to help fill that gap by identifying clear definitions and examples of “racial trauma” and “race-based stress” - as defined during participation in a focus group interview by the collective experience-based responses of two undergraduate African American students at a predominantly White institution - and identifying symptoms of posttraumatic stress and dissociation - measured by an online survey distributed to the participants that included questions from the Trauma Symptoms of Discrimination Scale (TSDS) and the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES-II) - that are relevant to those participants. Thematic analysis revealed that racial trauma includes intergenerationality, banality, and outside-in directionality components and that race-based stress includes hyperawareness and intentionality, hyper-competence, constant and everywhere, inside-out directionality, and intersectionality components. On the survey, both participants scored highly on the TSDS (67 and 64), results indicating that feelings of being isolated/set apart, avoidance, low self-esteem, and irritability were the most relevant trauma symptoms for them. Additionally, one participant’s scores indicated high levels of dissociation (55.7 on the DES-II) and the other’s scores indicated low levels of dissociation (23.6 on the DES-II). These findings can help validate the experiences of those with racial trauma or race-based stress and educate mental health professionals on racial trauma, race-based stress, and PTSD and dissociative effects of racial discrimination experiences in African Americans.

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© 2023, Zenith Lamb