Experiences of Racism Among African American Parents and the Mental Health of Their Preschool-Aged Children

by camilleouellet on November 14, 2016 - 1:03am

Caughy, O’Campo and Muntaner’s (2004) study observed the relationship between how African American parents experienced racism and on how was their preschooler children’s mental health. The authors also examined the influence of the families’ neighborhoods on the two other variables named above. The authors hypothesized that the African-American parents’ experience of racism and how they responded to it had an effect on their children’s development and mental health. They also wanted to study if the neighborhood’s conditions had any influence on the other variables. The participants were 200 families who were chosen for this study. They were all African-American families who had children aged between 3 and 4 years old. Block groups were selected to be the neighborhoods in which the study took place. These block groups were seen as the repercussions of the environment on the children’s mental health and behavioral problem. The families had to live in these block groups for a minimum time of six months. In average, there was 5.13 participants in each block groups. The authors wanted to examine the relationship between many variables, such as the African-American children’s mental health, the parents’ experience of racism, the neighborhood’s characteristics, how parents handled racism and finally, the parents’ racial socialization. The authors found that the more parents denied having experienced racism, the higher were their children’s behavioral problems such as depression and anxiety. Higher rates of child behavior issues were detected when parents denied three or four items of having experienced racism in the interview. The children’s mental health was better when parents were actively responding to racism. Depression and anxiety were the only mental health’s problem found in preschooler children. In neighborhoods where there was a high fear of victimization, the authors observed higher levels of depression and anxiety in African-American children. Many subjects who affirmed having experienced racism reacted more actively towards racist incidents. Most participants identified racism as being present for their friends and families and for American-African in general, but few were able to admit that they had experienced racism themselves. This study’s results supported Krieger’s hypothesis that claimed that denying racism could have a negative impact on health. The only neighborhood’s characteristic that had an impact on children’s mental health was the negative social climate, such as fear of victimization. In brief, parents’ responses to discrimination and racism was important for their children’s well-being, but the environment they lived in was just as important in their health and behavioral problems. Therefore, this study concluded that it is important to acknowledge racism since it is related to better outcomes in children’s well-being.


I think that this study by Caughy, O’Campo and Muntaner was really well done and thought out, since not only did it include how the parents raised their children and taught them to react in presence of racism and discrimination, but also, it took in account the importance of the environment. I think many studies forget to include this variable, when I believe it is crucial in explaining behavioral differences. I also think that it is great that this study concluded that we should be able to acknowledge racism, not ignore it. Parents who admit that racism is an issue and who try to actively respond to it are the best possible example for their children, who are the future generations of our societies. However, I think that this study would have been even more accurate and reliable if it had a wider variety of “races” in the participants, such as Asians, aboriginals, or even Caucasian people. This study only focused in racism for African-American, but as we saw in class, it is present everywhere and for every different races. Nevertheless, this study was done in 2004, so maybe if it was redone today, researchers would select a more accurate sample of participants.


       Margaret O'Brien Caughy, O'Campo, P.,J., & Muntaner, C. (2004). Experiences of racism

among african american parents and the mental health of their preschool-aged children. American Journal of Public Health, 94(12), 2118-24. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.champlaincollege.qc.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.c...