Study Looks at Mental Health Effects of Perceived Racism Among Young Children
Fifth-graders who believe they have experienced racial discrimination are much more likely than other children to have symptoms of depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other mental health problems, according to a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, USA Today reports.
Previous research has found that racial discrimination increases the odds of mental health problems in adolescents and adults, but this is the first study to examine the possible effects in younger children of varied races, Tumaini Coker -- study co-author, RAND researcher and University of California-Los Angeles pediatrician -- said. The study, led by Mark Schuster, a Harvard University pediatrician and pediatrics chief at Children's Hospital Boston, involved more than 5,000 children in Birmingham, Ala.; Houston; and Los Angeles.
Twenty percent of blacks, 15% of Hispanics, 16% of "other" races and 7% of whites reported experiencing prejudice. Hispanics reporting prejudice were more than three times as likely as other children to have symptoms of depression; blacks were more than twice as likely; and those of "other" races had almost quadruple the odds, according to the study. Participants experiencing prejudice also had higher rates of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.
Schuster said that the findings do not prove that discrimination caused the mental health symptoms because researchers did not follow participants over time (Elias, USA Today, 5/6).
An abstract of the study is available online.