Psychosocial Factors and Mental Health of Black Men (Ongoing)

Principal Investigator:
Daphne C. Watkins, PhD (University of Michigan School of Social Work)

Funded by:
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections

Project Goals & Approach:
Extant approaches to studying the African American male experience and mental health have been limited, particularly with regard to African American men at different age-linked life stages. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and mastery on depressive symptoms and psychological distress among African American men at young, middle, and late adulthood. Analyses are based on responses from 1271 African American men from the National Survey of American Life, the most comprehensive study of African American mental health to date. Our results suggested that life satisfaction does not play a significant role in the mental health of African American men across adult life stages. We also found self esteem to be protective against depressive symptoms regardless of life stage; however, this was not the case for young adult men reporting psychological distress. Mastery was not protective against depressive symptoms or psychological distress for African American men in late adulthood, and subsequent findings indicated that African American men in middle adulthood experience the added burden of racial discrimination as a prominent stressor. By and large, low income, not being in the workforce, and transitioning into late adulthood were all strong indicators for poor mental health status among African American men. Implications for intervention and future research are discussed.


  • Watkins, D. C., Hudson, D. L., Caldwell, C. H., Siefert, K., Jackson, J. S. (2011). Discrimination, mastery, and depressive symptoms among African American men. Research on Social Work Practice21(3), 269-277.
  • Lincoln, K. D., Taylor, R. J., Watkins, D. C., Chatters, L. (2011). Correlates of psychological distress and major depressive disorder among African American men. Research on Social Work Practice, 21(3), 278-288. 
  • Watkins, D.C., Johnson-Lawrence, V., & Griffith D. M. (2011). Men and their father figures: Exploring racial and ethnic differences across mental health outcomes. Race and Social Problems, 3(3): 197-211.

Return to Projects Page