Black parents’ experiences of racial discrimination may be linked to greater conflict with their children, which could in turn be associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety among children, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Previous studies of Black adults have found that overt forms of racial discrimination, including being treated with less respect or unfairly stopped or threatened by police, contribute to heightened depression, anxiety, and traumatic stress, wrote Chardée Galán, Ph.D., of the University of South California and colleagues. “[S]tudies find that parents’ exposure to race-based discrimination is negatively linked not only to their own well-being but also to their parenting practices and parent-child relationship quality.”
Galán and colleagues recruited families who self-identified as Black from the Safe Keeping Youth study—a randomized, controlled trial of youth and caregivers receiving services at a clinic serving low-income youth in Pittsburgh. Families were recruited based on their sociodemographic risk, such as if they received Medicaid or their income was at or below 150% of the federal poverty level and if their children were between the ages of 9.75 and 13 years old and exhibited problem behaviors (such as impulsivity).
Families participated in 2.5-hour assessments in their homes when the parents and children entered the study, one year later, and two years later. The assessments consisted of questionnaires that both the parent and child completed, as well as video-recorded discussions between them. At the start of the study, parents completed the Microaggression Scale, a nine-item measure of parents’ experiences of discrimination related to race/ethnicity. During the one-year follow-up, parents were asked about their experience with 20 depressive symptoms and the frequency of these symptoms over the past week; youth completed an interview to assess behavioral and emotional problems and parent-child conflict. During the two-year follow-up, parents reported behavioral and emotional problems observed in the youth over the past six months, and youth were asked about their experiences with depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and frequency of such activities as property damage or theft in the past year.
In total, 199 families completed all three assessments, and over 96% of parents who completed the initial assessment were mothers. Parents’ experiences of racial discrimination at the start of the study were not associated with parental depression a year later, but they were associated with parent-child conflict. Further, there was a significant association between parent-child conflict at the one-year follow-up and youth depression, anxiety, and conduct problems at the two-year follow-up, as reported by both children and parents. The authors did not identify a significant association between parental depression and parent-child conflict.
“Findings from this study suggest that efforts to promote youth well-being and resilience in the context of pervasive racism must consider the effects that racial discrimination has on the entire family unit and the quality of parent-child relationship,” the authors concluded. “[O]ur results can be used to further inform the development of key treatment targets for future clinical interventions.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “We Must Speak to Patients and Their Families About Racism.”
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