Rutgers University Sociologist Challenges Theories on Racial Differences in Mental Health

MouzonDawne Mouzon, an assistant professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, has conducted research which disputes the commonly held belief that the lower level of mental health problems among African Americans is the result of stronger family and church ties.

Her research, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, finds that the level of support in Black and White families is nearly the same. She also found that Black and Whites were just as likely to have church-based social relationships.

Dr. Mouzon believes that the scales used to measure mental illness and disorders may not be accurate for African Americans and that the rates of these disorders among Blacks and Whites may be more similar than past research has shown. “There needs to be more work assessing the lived experiences of Black people, ideally separated by social class because the types of stressors that working-class Blacks face are different from those that middle-class people face,” she says.

Dr. Mouzon also believes that differences in mental health rates may be in part because Blacks are less likely to seek help for such problems. “Historically at least, there has been stigma in the Black community such that you wouldn’t admit you have a mental health problem. You are encouraged to push through it, be strong, and pray.”

Dr. Mouzon holds bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees, all from Rutgers University. She also holds a master of public health degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

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