Although data suggests that a sense of shared social identity can contribute positively to psychological well-being for members of disadvantaged groups, little research has directly investigated the mechanisms involved in this relationship. In this study I test the ability of group identification to foster group-based engagement coping options (i.e., collective action, emotional expression, ingroup social support) that should promote well-being. I also tested the ability of identification to deter group-based disengagement coping options (i.e., avoidance, individual mobility, ingroup blame) that should harm well-being. These mediational processes were examined with samples of women, Blacks, gay people (gay men and lesbians) and deaf people. Supporting prior research, across the four samples higher group identification was associated with greater self-esteem and life satisfaction. Each coping option was found to be a mediator to varying degrees across the four samples. However, for gay people and Blacks more coping options mediated the relationship of identification with both self-esteem and life satisfaction. As a whole, the mediational results suggest that identification promotes well-being, in part, because it encourages group-based beliefs about engaging with discrimination and discourages group-based beliefs about disengaging from discrimination. Group differences in both the endorsement of coping options and the coping options that best accounted for the relationship between group identification and well-being are discussed in terms of politicized collective identities and concealability.
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Thesis advisor: Schmitt, Michael
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