Time Spent in Canada and Ethnic Identity Moderate the Relationship Between Race-Based Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Cognitive and Emotional Processes


  • Noémie Bergeron-Germain Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Nicholas Hickens Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Christine Lackner Mount Saint Vincent University




Racial discrimination, racial stress, executive functioning


Introduction: Racial stress is a form of race-based stress triggered by real or perceived discriminatory racial encounters experienced directly or vicariously. Racial stress symptoms resemble post-traumatic stress disorder, which is linked to significant cognitive and emotional disturbances. Objectives: This study investigated the relationship between racial stress symptoms and executive functioning. It explored the moderating effects of potentially protective factors like racial socialization processes, ethnic identity, and proportion of time spent in Canada (PTSC). Methods: Seventy-three participants (M = 29.01 years, SD = 11.10 years; 42 women, 30 men, and one non-binary) were recruited through purposive and convenience sampling and subsequently completed online measures of racial stress, executive functioning (EF), ethnic identity, and racial socialization. Demographic data were also collected. Results: About 20% of participants reported clinically significant symptoms in at least one racial stress domain. Racial stress, executive functioning, and racial socialization were significantly associated. Ethnic identity and racial socialization were significantly associated. Ethnic identity and PTSC moderated the relationship between racial stress and EF in such a way that lower levels of ethnic identity and higher PTSC, respectively, predicted a worse effect of racial stress on two domains of EF. Conclusion: Racialized individuals experience high levels of racial socialization. Although there are differences in those levels across and within minoritized communities, these high levels of racial stress likely lead to executive dysfunction akin to traditional stress. Environmental variables like minority status and high rates of discrimination likely contribute to this association. Specific aspects of the psychological impact of racial discrimination on EF are moderated by PTSC and ethnic identity.

Author Biographies

Noémie Bergeron-Germain, Mount Saint Vincent University

BSc (Hons), Psychology MSc (Candidate), Clinical Psychology 

Nicholas Hickens, Mount Saint Vincent University

BSc, Biochemistry and Medical Sciences  

BSc, Applied Human Nutrition with a Public Health concentration 

MD/PhD (student) 

Christine Lackner, Mount Saint Vincent University

BA (Hons), Psychology and Child Youth Studies 

MSc, Developmental Psychology 

PhD, Behavioural Neuroscience 


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