Research & Practice

My Research Goals:

Dr. Robinson’s long-term career goal is to be a scholar and practitioner whose research provides a comprehensive framework that identifies the pathways through which social stress exposure, coping, and healing processes shape health among ethnically diverse Black women.

Overall, her program of research investigates the life course biopsychosocial mechanisms that distinguish mental and physical health risk among Black women. To address this, her research agenda integrates theories and perspectives from Social Work, Public Health, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, and Medical Sociology to address four key issues: (1) interconnections between mental and physical health, (2) culturally-relevant forms of coping, (3) complementary and alternative medicine, and (4) ethnic heterogeneity among Black women.

Research Interests

Mental & Physical Health

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

John Henryism

Black Women

Superwoman Schema

Chronic Stress

Culturally-Relevant Coping

Allostatic Load


Featured Research

Due to systemic oppression, Black women experience distinct risks across the life course, such as exposure to various stressors that shape lower ratings of self-rated health. This is important given that self-rated health is a stronger indicator of current morbidity and subsequent mortality than physician assessments. However, there has been limited consideration of the role of coping in shaping self-rated health among this group. John Henryism, or high-effort coping, is a culturally relevant coping style that reflects the broader societal, cultural, and historical context that shapes lived experiences of Black populations navigating racism and capitalism in the U.S., and has received limited consideration in health research among Black women. Additionally, less is known regarding how ethnicity shapes John Henryism and health processes among Black women specifically. Therefore, the present study examined the association between John Henryism and self-rated health among African American and Caribbean Black women (n = 1580) collectively, and explored this association among Caribbean Black women specifically, utilizing the National Survey of American Life (NSAL 2001–2003). Findings show that while John Henryism was not directly associated with self-rated health among either group, once sociodemographic characteristics and stress exposure were accounted for, John Henryism was associated with lower odds of fair or poor self-rated health among both groups.

Robinson, M.N. (2022). “Pushing Past Limits: How Efficacious is High-Effort Coping for Self-Rated Health among African American and Caribbean Black Women?” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health-Special Issue. 19(20):13460.

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Purpose: Recent research suggests the determinants of and links between psychological distress and psychiatric disorder are distinct among Black Americans. Yet, these associations have not been explored among Black women, despite the unique social experiences, risks, and mental health patterns they face. The present study assessed the sociodemographic and psychosocial determinants of distress and disorder and evaluated the distress–disorder association, including whether it was conditional on sociodemographic and psychosocial characteristics among Black women.Methods: Data were from 328 Black women in the Nashville Stress and Health Study, a cross-sectional community epidemiologic survey of Blacks and Whites in Nashville, Tennessee, and was used to assess the correlates of distress (CES-D depressive symptoms scale) and major depressive disorder (MDD; based on the CIDI). Multinomial logistic regression models estimated the extent to which greater distress was associated with higher risk of “chronic” or “resolved MDD”. Results: Stress exposure and marital status were associated with greater distress, while stress exposure and childhood SES were associated with elevated disorder risk. Although increased distress was associated with greater disorder risk, significant interactions indicated these associations depend on differences in age and adult socioeconomic status within this population. Conclusions: This study identifies distinct correlates of distress and disorder and shows that the distress–disorder association varies among subgroups of Black women. Results have important implications for public health research and practice, as they highlight the factors that matter most for the mental health outcomes of Black women.

Robinson, M.N., Erving, C.L. & Thomas Tobin, C.S. Are Distressed Black Women Also Depressed? Implications for a Mental Health Paradox. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2022).

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