Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Susan C. McMillan


African American, Depression, Emotional Eating, obesity, Strong Black Woman



Eighty percent of all black women are overweight or obese which can lead to greatly increased morbidity and mortality, increasing healthcare costs and loss of healthy years of life. While multiple factors may contribute to obesity in black women, the cultural persona of the Strong Black Woman (SBW), an ideology that promotes unflagging toughness and denial of self-needs, may be the basis for behaviors that contribute to steady state obesity in this group. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between the SBW persona, depression, and emotional eating.

Two predominately black churches in Florida were approached concerning this research. A total of sixty-six women consented to participate during their monthly women's fellowship meeting. Each woman was asked to complete a packet of three instruments. The Strong Black Woman Cultural Construct Scale, a 22-item instrument was scored on a 5-point Likert-like scale with possible scores on the inventory ranging from 22 to 110. The mean score for this inventory was high (M=74.62; SD= 8.700. The SBWCCS has 3 subscales, measuring Affect Regulation (7 items), Caretaking (8 items), and Self-Reliance (7 items). Affect Regulation scores may range from 7 to 35. The mean score for Affect Regulation was moderately high (M=21.35; SD = 4.39). Caretaking scores could range from 8 to 40 points. The mean score for Caretaking was moderately high (M=25.11; SD = 4.47). Self-Reliance scores could range from 7 to 35, and had the highest mean score (M= 28.17; SD = 3.31). The Emotional Eating scale, a 25 item inventory rated on a five-point Likert-like scale, has a score range of 25 to 125 points. The mean score for Emotional Eating was low (M=49.36; SD = 19.42). The Center for Epidemiological Study-Depression Scale, a 20-item inventory has scores that range from 0-60 points. The mean score for this inventory was low (M=14.06; SD = 9.05).

Pearson Product Moment Correlations were run to determine if there were any relationships among the three variables and the subscales. No relationships were found between SBW and Depression, or between SBW and Emotional Eating. However the relationship between Depression and Emotional Eating was statistically significant (r=0 .27, p<.05). No relationships were found between the three subscales and emotional eating, nor was there a relationship between depression and caretaking or depression and self-reliance. However, the relationship between Depression and Affect Regulation was statistically significant (r=0.28, p<.05).

The findings regarding the relationships between SBW and depression, and also SBW and Emotional Eating were inconsistent with the current literature, suggesting that either response bias or some other source of bias interfered with the relationships. However, the significant relationships between Depression and Emotional Eating, along with Depression and Affect Regulation, were consistent with previous studies. Further research is needed to determine if there is response bias due to questions on the instruments being at odds with strong identification with the SBW persona and also to determine levels of depression in this population. A more complete understanding of these relationships is needed before culturally specific interventions for psychosocial factors supporting obesity in black women may be developed.