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Young Children who Face Discrimination Also Face Depression


According to a study to be presented Sunday, May 2 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Minority children who encounter racism in their daily lives, more often have more symptoms of depression.

"Unfortunately, minority children perceive discrimination often in their lives," said Lee M. Pachter, DO, co-author of the study and professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. "Fifty-five years after Brown v. Board of Education and the civil rights movement, racism is still common in their lives."

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Dr. Pachter and his team studied 277 minority children ages 9-18 years to determine how they perceived racism and the relationship between discrimination, depression and self-esteem.

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Each child filled out questionnaires that included 23 scenarios where they might perceive discrimination. Scenarios included incidents such as being followed by a store security guard, getting poor service in a restaurant or being accused of doing something wrong at school. The study included two-thirds Latino or African American children, and the rest were multiracial.

The results showed that at least 88 percent of these children had at least one experience with racism, and nearly 12 percent had experienced racial discrimination in at least half of the situations described in the survey.

The most common forms of discrimination were racial remarks, being called insulting names and being followed by security guards in stores. Experiences were similar for Latinos and African Americans, boys and girls, and younger and older children.

"Not only do most minority children experience discrimination, but they experience it in multiple contexts: in schools, in the community, with adults and with peers." Dr. Pachter said. "It's kind of like the elephant in the corner of the room. It's there, but nobody really talks about it. And it may have significant mental and physical health consequences in these children's lives."

The results of this study is astounding as to how many young children face discrimination on a daily basis in the United States and the impact that it causes on their innocent lives.

Because racism is so damaging, lead researcher Dr. Pachter believes that the next step is to look at whether discrimination creates stress that leads to racial/ethnic disparities in physical and mental health.