Racism and Child Health: A Review of the Literature and Future Directions

Department of Pediatrics and Anthropology, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, 282 Washington Street, Hartford, CT 06106, USA.
Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics: JDBP (Impact Factor: 2.12). 07/2009; 30(3):255-63. DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e3181a7ed5a
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Racism is a mechanism through which racial/ethnic disparities occur in child health. To assess the present state of research into the effects of racism on child health, a review of the literature was undertaken.
A MEDLINE review of the literature was conducted between October and November 2007. Studies reporting on empirical research relating to racism or racial discrimination as a predictor or contributor to a child health outcome were included in this review. The definition of "child health" was broad and included behavioral, mental, and physical health.
Forty articles describing empirical research on racism and child health were found. Most studies (65%) reported on research performed on behavioral and mental health outcomes. Other areas studied included birth outcomes, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and satisfaction with care. Most research has been conducted on African-American samples (70%), on adolescents and on older children, and without a uniformly standardized approach to measuring racism. Furthermore, many studies used measures that were created for adult populations.
There are a limited number of studies evaluating the relationship between racism and child health. Most studies, to date, show relationships between perceived racism and behavioral and mental health. Future studies need to include more ethnically diverse minority groups and needs to consider studying the effects of racism in younger children. Instruments need to be developed that measure perceptions of racism in children and youth that take into account the unique contexts and developmental levels of children, as well as differences in the perception of racism in different ethnocultural groups. Furthermore, studies incorporating racism as a specific psychosocial stressor that can potentially have biophysiologic sequelae need to be conducted to understand the processes and mechanisms through which racism may contribute to child health disparities.

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Available from: Lee M Pachter, Aug 25, 2015
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    • "While such reviews exist among adults (Paradies, 2006b; Pascoe & Smart Richman, 2009; Williams & Mohammed, 2009) the applicability of the findings of these reviews to the unique developmental needs and contexts of children and young people requires further examination. One nonsystematic review published in 2009 identified 40 articles on racism and child health, 70% of which considered African American populations (Pachter & Garcia Coll, 2009). However, as demonstrated below, this review included only a little over half of the studies published at that time. "
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    • "The study provides an important first step in understanding the physiological mechanisms that may underlie youths' experiences of discrimination and has the potential of propelling researchers into identifying the mechanisms underlying racial/ethnic health disparities in the U.S. These findings come as no surprise given that discrimination has long been theorized as a salient and impactful stressor for ethnic and racial minority youth living within the U.S (Pachter and García Coll, 2010). "
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    • "For example, those concerned with structural inequalities argue that adverse educational and health outcomes may be due to differential access to material needs, such as adequate nutrition, quality housing, and schools, as well as increased exposure to environmental toxins and hazards (Williams et al. 2003). Others suggest that, in the absence of effective coping strategies, children and adults feel the stress associated with experiencing discrimination, which can lead to psychological and behavioral responses that undermine their optimal individual and collective development and wellbeing (Pachter and Coll 2009; Harrell et al. 2003; Sellers et al. 2006). "
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