Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 4-17-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Renee M. Cunningham-Williams


Mental illness affects 25-30% of US adults ages 18 years and older in a given year. Of those individuals, about 41% fail to utilize mental health services. Research indicates that being African American and between the ages of 18 and 29 are associated with decreased rates of service utilization. Yet, less is known about the factors related to mental health service utilization among a specific subset of these groups, namely, African American emerging adults. Using empirically-tested theoretical frameworks as its foundation, this dissertation study aimed to address this gap in literature by examining specific predisposing, enabling, and need factors: e.g., gender, educational attainment, employment, mental health insurance coverage, perceived emotional support, perceived racial discrimination, evaluated need, and perceived need) associated with mental health service utilization by recency of use: e.g., lifetime and past 12 month utilization) and provider types utilized: e.g., mental health versus non-mental health sector) among this group. Secondary analyses was conducted of a nationally representative sample of African American emerging adults: n=806), drawn from the National Survey of American Life. This study found that being female as well as having an evaluated need or a perceived need for services were significantly associated with greater odds of lifetime, past 12 month, and mental health sector providers. This study is a first step in future research to better understanding the factors associated with service utilization among this underserved population.


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