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Can Racism Lead to Depression in Black, Latino Kids?

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Black and Latino students may be more likely to develop mental-health problems as a result of experiencing racism, a new Rand Institute/Harvard University study suggests. While there's some evidence that racial discrimination increases the likelihood that adolescents and adults will develop mental illnesses, this is the first to examine a possible link between racism and mental disorders among elementary-aged students. 

The results of the study, however, do not prove that discrimination caused emotional problems. That's because, unlike studies of adults, these fifth-grade participants weren't followed over a period of time. But it is possible that at-risk Black and Latino kids prompt more discriminatory remarks from peers or that children with emotional problems perceive more bias, says the study's lead researcher, Mark Schuster, a Harvard pediatrician and pediatrics chief at Children's Hospital Boston.


What this study found:

  • 20 percent of the Black students and 15 percent of the Latino students said they had experienced racism, compared to only 7 percent of white students
  • Latino youth who reported experiencing racism were more than three times as likely to have symptoms of depression. Blacks were more than twice as likely
  • Rates of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional-defiant disorder and conduct disorder were also higher among the Black and Latino students studied.


Although some experts are lauding the research for its findings, other child psychologists disagree and point to the inherent bias that comes with asking students whether they "ever experienced," or perceived, racism. "We don't know if it was a rare occurrence with these kids," says Rebecca Bigler, a U. iversity of Texas psychologist. "Maybe it only has to happen once to be devastating if you're young."


May 11, 2009

By Daryl C. Hannah

source: www.diversityinc.com


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