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Racial Justice Research

Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry at IU School of Medicine are exploring the impact of discriminatory law enforcement exposure and childhood trauma on health and quality of life in Black adults.

Over the last several decades, the murders of unarmed Black men and women have underscored the disparate experiences of Black and white Americans, particularly exposure to violence and contact with law enforcement. The damaging impact of racial profiling and discrimination by law enforcement on the overall health and wellbeing are known societal problems that have received inadequate attention and research. Moreover, the association between childhood trauma and discriminatory experiences with law enforcement, as well as potential protective factors, are not well understood.

About this study

Researchers at IU School of Medicine aim to improve understanding of how racial profiling and discrimination and increased interactions with law enforcement impact the mental and physical health and quality of life of Black men and women engaged at a primary care setting. The role of pre-existing childhood trauma will also be explored. This research is the first to investigate the role of protective factors and the intersectionality with other forms of discriminatory experience.

Individuals who identify as Black men and women aged 18 years and older and are patients at an Indiana University Health primary care clinic will be eligible to participate in the study. Interested individuals will be invited to meet with a research assistant to complete questionnaires and undergo study procedures. Data will be collected over a 10-month period. At least 50 people will be recruited for the study.

Research questions

  • How does racial profiling and discrimination by law enforcement impact the health and quality of life of Black men and women?

  • Does childhood trauma correlate with and predict the number of reported negative experiences with law enforcement?

  • Do religiosity, resiliency and/or social support protect against the impact of discriminatory experiences with law enforcement?

  • How does the impact of race discrimination on health intersect with other discriminatory factors such as gender, socio-economic status and age?

Expected outcomes

Based on previous literature, it is anticipated that participants who endorse increased exposure to violence and increased interactions with law enforcement will have worse mental and physical health outcomes and poorer reported quality of life. Regardless of outcome, these data will be extremely informative to the literature and add much to the broader understanding of the effects of discrimination, childhood trauma and influence of protective factors on overall health and quality of life.

Experts in Racial Justice Research

18755-Henderson, Danielle

Danielle R. Henderson, PhD

Assistant Dean for Diversity Affairs

Co-Principal Investigator

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15039-Vohs, Jenifer

Jenifer L. Vohs, PhD

Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

Co-Principal Investigator

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Research Team Members

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Ashley Bazier

Research Assistant

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This research project is one of many ongoing Indiana University Racial Justice projects. For more information about this study, please email or call 317-278-2788.