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Colorism, A Legacy of Historical Trauma in Parent-Child Relationships: Clinical, research and personal perspectives.

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Abstract

Practitioners need to be aware of the intergenerational transmission of historical trauma in families with young children. One legacy of historical trauma, colorism - valuing light skin over dark skin - occurs among many oppressed indigenous, ethnic, racial, and cultural groups around the world. The unconscious hierarchy and privilege associated with skin color may interact with other stressors and traumatic events resulting in the acceptance or rejection of children by parents. A clinical case explores the compounding impact of colorism with present-day traumatic stressors in the parent-child relationship of a Salvadoran dyad where the mother is a survivor of political trauma. The authors then present research, personal, and professional experiences of colorism within families and systems of care and discuss recommendations for therapists.
... These behaviors and imperialist expectations not only have empowered lighter-skinned individuals through the centuries, but it has also diminished the self-esteem and perception of potential power for those with darker skin. As Lewis, Noroña, McConnico, and Thomas (2013) stated, even darkerskinned people endure a historical trauma regarding color, attractiveness, and acceptability, being taught, "if you're Black step back…" A culture divided by color lines that run deep is integral to our social systems, inclusive of family structures. Not only do we collectively remain victims of such bias, we consciously or unconsciously perpetuate these colorist systems (Burton, et al., 2010). ...
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This book chapter uses a Chi-Square analysis to confirm that Blacks with darker skin tones are more likely to face workplace bullying when compared to Blacks with lighter skin tones.
... Key themes in understanding historical trauma in any group include: (1) the historical trauma experience, (2) the historical trauma response, and (3) the intergenerational transmission of trauma (Sotero 2006). The affected group(s) may manifest the historical trauma experience as internalized oppression (when a person comes to believe in and act out the messages circulating in the culture that the identity group to which they belong is inferior), and it is often expressed in parent-child and caregiver-child relationships-often in less than ideal ways (Lewis, Noroña, McConnico, and Thomas 2013). ...
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An in-depth description of housing sensitive and trauma-informed practices for young children and their families experiencing homelessness. Includes many authentic first-hand narratives from families experiencing homelessness, early childhood teachers and homeless liaisons; a wide range of strategies teachers can implement right away; recommendations for family engagement; and a comprehensive chapter on federal policies related to homelessness. The book is written for practitioners but includes many research citations and is useful for anyone working with young children (including courses in higher ed). This will be a free downloadable online resource from the CDE website. Expected publication in winter 2020.
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Clinical research sites can struggle with recruiting and retaining vulnerable populations. Vulnerable research participants often have significant trauma histories making traditional approaches to recruitment and retention tenuous. Due to these difficulties, vulnerable populations are often intentionally excluded from clinical research due to the additional time and work involved. While it is important to provide protections for any participant that has decreased autonomy or increased susceptibility to coercion, it is equally important to assure that individuals in vulnerable populations have access to any clinical research that might pertain to them. In addition, the new trends in the drug development industry including early-stage development, risk-identification, preventative care, and disease spread modeling are likely to include health disparate patient populations that have increased probability of vulnerability. In this article we discuss the roots of many vulnerabilities and how to foster trust for more effective recruitment and retention of vulnerable populations.
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The book begins with the story of a social worker’s encounter with a young African-American mother reported to social services for child neglect. The unfolding case was the catalyst for beginning a program of research centered on hair combing interaction. The story describes the typical motivation of many social workers who desire to help families and prevent the removal of the children. She noticed the children appeared well-fed, with clean clothes, happy, and smiling. Lewis tells the story of how she began to use the state of the children’s hair as a symbolic gauge of the mother’s emotional state. The chapter concludes with a broad description of the Parts of the Book based on this research.
Chapter
A colorist-historical trauma framework views colorism as a function of historical trauma impacting the psychological and physical well-being of African Americans (Ortega-Williams Crutchfield, & Hall, 2019). Parent and caregiver's childhood experiences of racial acceptance and rejection (CERAR) based on their racial features is an unrecognized factor in perceptions of self and emotional response to children. CERAR can be an unconscious factor in the quality of parent-child attachment relationships. The structured tools, the Neck-up drawingⓒ (Lewis & Joseph, 2017), are introduced in this chapter. The tool, the Neck-up drawingⓒ, a projective measure, will help adult parents and primary caregivers share their childhood memories and emotions associated with their hair type and skin tone. They then tell CERAR stories based on freestyle drawings of their racialized childhood features from the neck up. Several case examples of men and women are presented in the chapter to illustrate the childhood memories and emotions associated with hair texture and skin color to adults using the Neck-up drawing.
Chapter
Included in this chapter is a personal, professional, and liberatory journey in offering a Talk, Touch, and Listen (TT&L) learning community to participants in Boston, Massachusetts. Coauthors and cofacilitators highlight the creation of space through this training for the awakening of diverse aspects of identity, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, class, age, gender, and nationality. The coauthors present personal experiences, spanning continents and generations, which led to the reflection about the impacts of colonialism and our deeper understanding of racism. At the center is the discussion of hair type and colorism. Our journey through TT&L also highlights the decolonizing nature of this work, an intentional, transformative effort to recognize, investigate, and courageously free ourselves from socialized, internalized, and oppressive messaging and valuations that have their roots in racism and colonialism. We discussed in TT&L group meetings, the impacts on conceptualizations of beauty including colorism and texturism, even in societies and nations primarily composed of black and brown people. The chapter concludes with an invitation to center the important voices of the people of the global majority in our shared field of early childhood, its research, and practice.
Chapter
As mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect, social workers, infant and early childhood educators are under enormous pressure to make life-and-death decisions for children. This chapter presents the daily routine of hair combing interaction (HCI) between a parent/caregiver and child as a home-based intervention that builds parent attachment with infants and toddlers. The author describes the science behind the development of an intervention, Talk, Touch, and Listen While Combing Hair, that can prevent intergenerational child maltreatment. The author discusses the need for more culturally valid tools that can help families of color heal from racial wounds as they learn about the evidence-based parenting strategies with infants and toddlers. Finally, the chapter explains how more effective tools can increase client engagement and help prevent burnout in committed, hard-working social workers and early childhood educators.
Chapter
Rituals and routines, as defined by anthropologists, describe hair combing interaction. The daily routine of hair combing interaction (HCI) offers social workers and early childhood practitioners an opportunity to assess the socioemotional quality of the parent–child relationship. For infant, early childhood clinicians, and researchers, the routine of a mother, father, or primary caregiver combing an infant or child’s hair may serve as a clinical window into a family's intimate shared identity, providing an opportunity for a deeper understanding of behavioral and emotional characteristics of their growing attachment relationship. The analyses of the videotaped interaction revealed five observable stages of interaction that occur during the task. These stages, preparation, negotiation, combing hair, play, and closing rituals, reflect a synchrony of interactive relationship dynamics distinct to each stage (Lewis, 2015).
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Children may be vicariously traumatized from learning about the trauma of family and friends. To date, a causal model of children’s vicarious traumatization has not been empirically validated in the literature. This paper fills the gap in the literature by reporting on the direct effect of vicarious trauma on children independent of caregiving impairment. Data for the study came from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence I (NATSCEV I). This unique dataset features two indicators of vicarious trauma exposure: (1) family victimization and (2) community violence. Hierarchical multiple regression was conducted in order to control for nuisance variables such as caregiver impairment, defined as the degree of warmth or hostility; time elapsed since the trauma occurred and the study taking place; and other trauma exposure (i.e. direct and witnessed trauma). As expected, the study found evidence of a direct and positive relationship between learning about the trauma of close friends and family and children’s trauma symptomatology. Both adolescents and young children were found to be vulnerable to experience vicarious traumatization, with gender and ethnicity being contributing factors. Chronological age was not found to be significant in children’s vicarious traumatization. These findings support the causal model of vicarious traumatization. They demonstrate that children may be traumatized by exposure to the trauma material of others above and beyond the influence of caregiver impairment. As such, attention should be given to interventions, practices, and policies that intervene in the lives of children exposed to violence.
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Latina immigrant women are vulnerable to traumatic stress and sexual health disparities. Without autonomy over their reproductive health and related decision-making, reproductive justice is elusive. We analyzed behavioral health data from 175 Latina immigrant participants (M age = 35; range = 18-64) of the International Latino Research Partnership (ILRP) study. We used descriptive and inferential statistics to compare immigrant mothers of minor children to those without, regarding their psychological and reproductive health, and correlates of past exposure to sexual trauma. Over one third (38%) of ILRP participants had minor children, and 58% had citizenship in their host country. The rate for sexual assault was 30 and 61%, respectively, for physical assault; these rates were similarly high for women with and without minor children. Women who reported sexual assault scored significantly higher for depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and substance-abuse screens. Odds of experiencing sexual assault was highest for women who experienced physical assault (odds ratio = 10.74), and for those from the Northern Triangle (odds ratio = 8.41). Subgroups of Latina migrant mothers are vulnerable to traumatic stress and related sexual and mental health risks. Given these findings, we frame the implications in a reproductive justice framework and consider consequences for caregiver-child well-being. © 2019 Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health.
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