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 RAND.org 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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