Links between mental health and a child’s exposure to racial discrimination

In a study of about 900 African American families in the U.S. states of Iowa and Georgia, involved, careful parenting during middle childhood protected children from the negative effects of experiencing racial discrimination. . This type of parenting is characterized by warmth, acceptance, and responsiveness, as well as less restraint and violent behavior. Involved, careful parenting is key to children developing the capacity to regulate their emotions and avoid the adverse mental health consequences that can arise from racism. It confirms findings from earlier research on African American families, with associations between positive parent-child relationships in middle childhood and adolescents with decision-making skills. , attention, avoid distractions, set priorities, and control emotions.

In this study, the researchers made the case that, given how often African American families experience racial discrimination, it is important to understand it based on the strong, cultural assets of parenting. Family support services need to understand and build around these assets when providing preventive measures for African American families.

Middle childhood is an important stage in a child’s development. This is the time when children can develop a greater sense of self and the capacity to control their emotions. Their social world is expanding during this time as they are learning how to participate in wider social situations. Such social competence is associated with many positive outcomes of youth development.

In the said study, African American mothers were asked how content they were with their children and how happy they were with their relationship with their children. Mothers were also asked questions such as, “How often do you know what your child does after class?” “If you discipline your child, how often does the type of discipline you use depend on how you feel?” and “How often do you give your child reasons for your decisions?”

Middle childhood is an important stage in a child’s development. This is the time when children can develop a greater sense of self and the capacity to control their emotions.

When mothers report experiences of discrimination, they are more likely to report depression and anxiety on their part, as well as their children’s troubled relationships. This in turn was associated with a greater likelihood of low-quality parenting, as examined by the mother. Maternal depression/anxiety and low parenting quality are associated with a greater likelihood of children developing poor self -control and emotional regulation skills.

The study produced a surprising result. African-American children who experience racial discrimination in middle childhood show a taller tendency to develop stronger self-regulation and emotional control in early adolescence, which in turn is associated with less depression and greater social competence. It is the same for men and women. In some children, some exposure to adversity during childhood can help them comfort themselves and regulate emotion, protecting them from the negative effects of mental health.

However, this unexpected finding did not rule out overall negative correlations between family experience of racial discrimination and children’s depressive symptoms. These links were found here and in the first work of the same researchers.

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