Perceived Racial/ethnic Discrimination Among Fifth-Grade Students and Its Association with Mental Health

Published In: American Journal of Public Health, v. 99, no. 5, May 1, 2009, p. 878-884

Posted on on January 01, 2009

by Tumaini Coker, Marc N. Elliott, David E. Kanouse, Jo Anne Grunbaum, David C Schwebel, M. Janice Gilliland, Susan R. Tortolero, Melissa F Peskin, Mark A. Schuster

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OBJECTIVES: The authors sought to describe the prevalence, characteristics, and mental health problems of children who experience perceived racial/ethnic discrimination. METHODS: The authors analyzed cross-sectional data from a study of 5147 fifth-grade students and their parents from public schools in 3 US metropolitan areas. They used multivariate logistic regression (overall and stratified by race/ethnicity) to examine the associations of sociodemographic factors and mental health problems with perceived racial/ethnic discrimination. RESULTS: Fifteen percent of children reported perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, with 80% reporting that discrimination occurred at school. A greater percentage of Black (20%), Hispanic (15%), and other (15%) children reported perceived racial/ethnic discrimination compared with White (7%) children. Children who reported perceived racial/ethnic discrimination were more likely to have symptoms of each of the 4 mental health conditions included in the analysis: depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder. An association between perceived racial/ethnic discrimination and depressive symptoms was found for Black, Hispanic, and other children but not for White children. CONCLUSIONS: Perceived racial/ethnic discrimination is not an uncommon experience among fifth-grade students and may be associated with a variety of mental health disorders .

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