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Thu Nov 15, 2018, 10:37 AM

Study: Resilience to discrimination and ethnic-racial identity in minority children.

Minority children with a strong sense of ethnic-racial identity are more resilient to harms of discrimination, study finds

Children as young as 7 years old are able to detect racial and ethnic discrimination aimed at them, according to a recent study.

But children who are raised with a strong sense of their ethnic-racial identity are more resilient to the psychological harm that such discrimination inflicts, the study also found.

“These findings highlight the importance of reducing discrimination and its pernicious effects, as well as promoting a positive sense of ethnic-racial identity and belonging to partially buffer children in the interim,” said Tuppett Yates, one of the study’s authors and a developmental psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, in a released statement.

The study was published in the journal Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology.

Earlier research

As background information in the study points out, the negative effects of discrimination on human development have been documented many, many times in prior studies. Much of that research has been with adults, but studies involving adolescents have found that young people who report more experiences with racial or ethnic discrimination are at greater risk of depression, substance abuse and risky sexual behaviors. They are also less likely to be engaged with and successful in school.

Only a few such studies have examined the issue in children as young as 10, but those findings have been similar. One study, which involved African-American boys aged 10 to 15, found that children’s reports of ethnic-racial discrimination were linked with behavioral problems, feelings of hopelessness and poor self-concepts.

The current study is one of the first, however, to look at how children younger than 10 perceive experiences of discrimination and how those perceptions affect their development over time.


Limitations and implications
The study comes with several caveats. It involved a relatively small sampling of children, and it also depended on the children’s own reports of discrimination. Also, the study included a large number of children from multiple ethnic-racial groups, and about 10 percent of those children were unable to identify all the groups to which they belonged (based on information provided by a parent or other caregiver).

Still, the study’s results support the findings from research on older children. Furthermore, as Yates and Marcela point out in their paper, the results might be even more pronounced if the study were to be done today.

“The current data were collected between 2011 and 2013, which was well before the widespread public discourse regarding racially motivated violence that has risen to prominence over the past few years,” they explain.

“Recent events and media coverage may serve to increase children’s experiences of discrimination and/or their awareness of discriminatory experiences directly via media exposure or indirectly via parental socialization in response to these violent events,” the researchers add. “Thus, the current climate magnifies the significance of our findings, which support prior assertion that exposure to ethnic-racial bias and discrimination at an early age has negative implications for later development.”

“I think it’s pretty convincing evidence that young children are experiencing and encoding experiences with discrimination in their schools, in their peer groups, and these experiences have significant negative implications for their health and wellbeing,” Yates told Claudia Boyd-Barrett, a reporter for the California Health Report.

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