In Brief

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded psychologist James S. Jackson more than $8 million to conduct one of the largest national surveys ever on African-Americans. Jackson will study what elements have contributed to the current status of African-American life.

Conducting this study is of special interest to Jackson, a researcher at the University of Michigan­Ann Arbor, since he directed a similar national study of African-Americans in 1979­80. The new expanded survey will allow him to determine the changes that have occurred in the African-American community during the last 20 years.

Jackson is particularly interested in the ways certain stressors, such as poverty, discrimination and job stress, affect the population and how they may contribute to serious mental illness or psychological distress. In addition, he will study the resources African-Americans use to combat these problems, such as family strength, religion and friends.

All together Jackson and his colleagues will survey 9,000 people to assess the significance of those resources in adaptation and coping. Jackson will also examine whether the same factors hold true for affluent African-Americans.

"The statistics from the U.S. Census can tell us, for example, that there are more affluent blacks now than in 1979," says Jackson. "But the census doesn't allow you to understand what this means for the population. What are the differences between now and then? How did African-Americans adapt? What are some of the specific changes?"

Jackson and his colleague, Cleopatra Caldwell, PhD, will also take a special look at African-American adolescents from ages 13 to 17 to see what factors make teens especially vulnerable to various stressors.

"We're not just interested in the science of all this," says Jackson, "we're also concerned about the realities of public policy, intervention and providing direct assistance to members of the population."