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Skin Tone Matters: Racial Microaggressions and Delayed Prenatal Care

Authors:
Publication Date:
Sep 2019
Project Programs:
Integrating Biology and Social Science Knowledge

The existing literature posits that discrimination can be a barrier to racial and ethnic minorities' healthcare use. This study examines the relationship between perceived discrimination in the form of racial microaggressions and delayed prenatal care in African American women. It also investigates whether this relationship is modified by women's shade of skin color owing to societal attitudes and beliefs tied to colorism (also known as skin-tone bias). 

Data were collected from a cohort of 1,410 black, African American women in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan, enrolled in 2009-2011 (analyzed between August 2017 and July 2018). Perceived racial microaggressions were assessed using the 20-item Daily Life Experiences of Racism and Bother scale. A logistic regression modeled the relationship between the Daily Life Experiences of Racism and Bother scale and delayed prenatal care, defined as third trimester or no prenatal care entry. 

Nearly a quarter of women had delayed prenatal care. Logistic regression models showed that a Daily Life Experiences of Racism and Bother score above the median was associated with delayed prenatal care. This association was moderated by self-reported maternal skin tone. A higher Daily Life Experiences of Racism and Bother score was associated with delayed prenatal care among African-American women at either end of the color continuum (light brown: AOR=1.64, 95% CI=1.02, 2.65; dark brown: AOR=2.30, 95% CI=1.20, 4.41) but not in the middle (medium brown women). 

The authors conclude that skin tone-based mistreatment in tandem with racial discrimination in the form of racial microaggressions may influence African American women's use of prenatal care. These findings have implications related to the engagement of women of color, particularly African American women, in healthcare systems and maternal and child health programs.

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