Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

College

College of Education and International Services

Program

Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Carole Woolford-Hunt

Second Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Third Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Abstract

Problem

During the Colonial period, hair was one of the designated phenotypic markers of racial group membership used to assign or deny privilege. Privileges are still assigned to people based on their racial group membership and their proximity to Whiteness. As such, Hair remains a salient part of Afro-Latina women’s lives and identities, with its influences seen in the personal, social, and mental realms. How an Afro-Latina wears her hair can have legal, social, and intrapersonal consequences. The subsequent treatment of Afro-Latinas because of their hairstyle can affect how they view themselves and even how they relate to others, especially regarding their racial identity. The consequence of this problem is decreased mental health for Afro-Latina women with poor hair esteem, as Afro-Latinas often view hair as the only indicator of the Blackness they often try to deny. The literature examining the relationship between hair esteem, hair texture, racial identity, hair choice, and psychological well-being among Afro-Latina women is scarce or qualitative. Therefore, further research is needed to determine the relationship between the abovementioned factors for Afro-Latinas in the United States who may (or may not) identify as Afro-American.

Method

Participants completed surveys that measured a) hair esteem, b) racial identity, and c) psychological well-being. In addition, I collected demographic information for the variables a) hair texture, and b) hairstyle choice. This work employed structural equation modeling to test the hypothesized model for the proposed impact of hair esteem and racial identity on psychological well-being.

Results

Structural equation modeling suggested the original hypothesized model was a poor fit to the data. Therefore, the model was re-specified based on theory and modification indices. First, the revised model suggested hair esteem had a negative direct effect on psychological well-being. Second, racial identity had a large, positive effect on psychological well-being. Third, racial identity had a medium negative effect on hair esteem.

Conclusions

This study added to the limited body of literature on the role of positive feelings about hair (hair esteem) and racial identity attitudes of Afro-Latinas in the United States. It suggests that high hair esteem is related to high psychological wellbeing, high negative racial attitudes (i.e., self-hatred, anti-dominant feelings, and miseducation) led to low psychological wellbeing, and high negative racial attitudes were related to low hair esteem. This confirmed that Afro-Latinas who feel positively about their race also felt more positively towards their hair and aspects of their lives which overall comprise their psychological wellbeing.

Subject Area

Hair; Hairstyles; Race awareness; Hispanic Americans--Racial identity; Well-being;

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