Statement of purpose Racial discrimination presents a lifelong chronic stressor and has been found to impact mental health outcomes for individuals and their families. In a sample of families receiving before- and after-school services, we surveyed children and parents on their experiences with racial discrimination and correlated results to children’s emotional and behavioral difficulties.
Methods/Approach Using a community-engagement approach, children and parent dyads were recruited from Twin Cities Boys and Girls Clubs. Parents and children completed questionnaires on their experiences with racial discrimination along with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for children. Linear regression adjusted for gender and race to compare racial discrimination scales to both parent- and self-reported emotional and behavioral difficulties for children.
Results 32 racially diverse child-parent dyads were enrolled into the study and returned the cross-sectional survey. Overall, 91% of parents and 80% of children reported some form of racial discrimination in their lifetime, such as receiving unfair treatment at work or school, experiencing threats or harm, or being insulted, devalued, or excluded because of their race or ethnicity. An increase in children’s emotional/behavioral difficulties was observed with each additional experience of racial discrimination reported by children (β=1.5, 95% CI 0.4–2.5) as well as with each unit increase in the lifetime racial discrimination scale for parents (β=5.0, 95% CI 0.8 – 9.2).
Conclusions Racial discrimination, including the effects of lifetime racism experienced by their parents, can impact the emotional and behavioral health of children. Early intervention is critical to reducing the adverse effects of transgenerational racism and ethnic discrimination.
Significance This pilot study underscores the importance of preventing childhood trauma among racially and ethnically-diverse communities. Community-based injury research may benefit from considering both the experiences of children and parents in relation to children’s injury or mental health outcomes.
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