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Abstract

Empowerment has been proffered as a desirable goal for many disadvantaged populations. The process of empowerment can include encouraging disadvantaged individuals to recognize the structural factors in society (e.g., discrimination, oppression, injustice) which contribute to disadvantaged status. Two studies sought to determine the impact that recognition of oppression has on a disadvantaged individual's (1) self-esteem; (2) level of depressive symptoms; (3) resilience which includes a sense of master y and optimism; (4) anger; and (5) reliance on God. These issues were investiga ted in a sample of African-American men seeking services at a soup-kitchen ministry. Perceptions of racial discrimination were marginally associated with attenuated levels of depressive symptoms. There was no evidence that perception of oppression influenced anger or self-esteem. However, belief in a just world was associated with some aspects of resilience and stronger reliance on God. Attributions to individual causes of homelessness were marginally associated with greater optimism. Those practitioners endeavoring to empower should be cautious about impairing clients' belief in a just world or undermining a sense of personal control over events.

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