Psychology 3 questions PERSONALITY ACTIVITY 1 STRESS Concept and Goal This activity examines whether African American males may be prone to higher levels

Psychology 3 questions PERSONALITY ACTIVITY 1 STRESS

Concept and Goal
This activity examines whether African American males may be prone to higher levels

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3 questions

PERSONALITY ACTIVITY 1 STRESS

Concept and Goal

This activity examines whether African American males may be prone to higher levels of stress and thus susceptible to high blood pressure. You should read the passage and then prepare a short PowerPoint or video describing various factors that could lead to hypertension in African American males.

Instructions

Read the following passage from George Bishop’s Health Psychology (1994) and answer the following discussion questions.

Blood Pressure in Black Americans: The Role of John Henryism

John Henry, the legendary black steeldriver, is a symbol of the belief that a person can overcome any obstacle through enough hard work. According to the legend, John Henry was a champion steeldriver (a person who uses steel stake and sledge hammer to make holes for explosives) on the C&O Railroad when he bragged that he could drive more steel than a steam-driven machine being used by a competing contractor. A contest was arranged in which John Henry indeed beat the machine, but afterward died from his efforts (Botkin, 1944). In their work on “John Henryism,” James and his colleagues (James, Hartnett, & Kalsbeek, 1983; James, LaCrois, Kleinbaum, & Strogatz, 1984) draw an analogy between John Henry’s efforts and those of black Americans who have worked to overcome daunting odds in their struggle for economic self-sufficiency. According to this reasoning, the belief that any obstacle can be overcome by hard work and determination can lead to chronic, excessive arousal when the person is continually required to overcome obstacles such as discrimination based on lack of formal education. In turn, this excessive arousal may be one of the factors leading to hypertension among African Americans, particularly those with limited education.

To test this hypothesis, James and his colleagues (James et al., 1983) developed an eight-item scale for John Henryism, including such items as “Once I make up my mind to do something, I stay with it until the job is completely done” and “I feel I am the kind of man who stands up for what he believes in, regardless of the consequences.” This scale was then administered to a group of Southern, working-class black men during an interview in which they answered questions about educational background, life aspirations, and various health issues. In addition, blood pressure measures were obtained. The results showed that men who are high on John Henryism and had fewer than 11 years of education had higher diastolic blood pressure than did those who were either low in John Henryism or had more education.

Another study explored the role of John Henryism in the relationship between occupational stress and blood pressure. The results showed that although black men who perceived themselves as being successful tended to have lower diastolic blood pressure, this was not true for those who were also high in John Henryism. In addition, diastolic blood pressure was particularly high for men who were successful but high in John Henryism and felt that they had been hindered by being black. These data lend support to the hypothesis that hypertension in black American males may, at least partly, be a function of barriers faced by black Americans and beliefs about how those barriers can be overcome.

Discussion Questions

According to this passage, what are some stressors that may lead to hypertension among black American males?

What would you suggest to control hypertension among black American males?

Can you think of other minority groups that may be prone to hypertension based on stressors in their environment? If so, list them.

References:

Bishop, G. (1994). Health psychology, integrating mind and body. Needham heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Botkin, B.A. (1944). A treasury of American folklore. New York: Crown Publishers.

James, S.A., Hartnett, S.A., and Kalsbeek, W.D. (1983). John Henryism and blood pressure differences among black men. Journal of Behavioral Medicine (6: pgs. 259 – 278)

James, S.A., LaCrois, A.Z., Kleinbaum, D.G., and Strogatz, D.S. (1984). John Henryism and blood pressure differences among black men. II. The role of occupational stressors. Journal of Behavioral Medicine (7: pgs. 259 – 275)

Whittlesey, V. (2001). Diversity Activities for psychology. Needham, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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