Children’s Health at Stake Because of Racism and Discrimination

by Camille Cournoyer on Novembre 10, 2016 - 8:59pm

Summary: Patcher, Bernstein, Szalacha and Coll’s study investigated the way children perceive racism and in which situation they observe it, as well as the effects of discrimination and racism on them. The main hypothesis was that there is a positive correlation between children’s awareness of racism in their environment and their health condition, particularly if they are part of a group that constitutes a visible minority. The participants were children between 8 and 18 years old. They were conveniently chosen from four Boys and Girls Club Centers, four public support organizations, in Hartford, Connecticut. The 277 selected children had a similar background. They were mainly poor and had lived in urban areas. Based on a study analysing the same issue, the researchers created a questionnaire of 23 statements. Each statement described a particular situation in which the children might have felt discriminated against. In such cases, they had to specify how frequently, and, in their opinion, for what reason they were treated differently. The independent variable was exposition to racism and general discrimination while the dependent variable was children’s psychological health. Patcher, Bernstein, Szalacha and Coll found that 88.4% of the respondents had already been victims of discrimination at least once. Furthermore, from the 23 proposed situations, the respondents had, on average, experienced six of them. Verbal attacks were the most identifiable types of racial discrimination. According to the findings, racial discrimination occurred most of the time at school, while shopping, and in restaurants. Indeed, the subjects would be treated differently and poorly. Self-identified African Americans and Latinos’ results were similar, except that African Americans felt like people were afraid of them and that they were less valued by their teachers. The main difference between these two groups was that Latinos believed their accent and language were the reason why they were treated differently, while African Americans attributed this problematic to their “race”. Females felt like their family members had been treated unfairly more often than males. Older children, aged 14 to 18, tended to feel discriminated against by figures of authority (police officers, store clerks, security guards). The researchers concluded that racism and discrimination are very present if the life of kids who are part of a visible minority group and that this situation can affect their health and development. Even members of the same minority group can insult each other using stereotypes. Besides, discrimination can be implicit. Situations of racial discrimination in which the bad intentions of the perpetrator are unclear, compared to explicit discrimination, could have a more important impact on children’s health. Kids also had hard time determining whether they were punished because of their “difference” or because they really did something bad. Patcher, Bernstein, Szalacha and Coll discovered that discrimination was not exclusively due to the kids’ race and ethnicity: age, gender and elements of culture associated with youth were also mentioned. Racism causes inequalities between individuals, which could explain inequalities in health care and the poorer health state of minority group’s members.

Response: As mentioned by the authors, studies analyzing the reality of children who are part of a minority group are not very common. Therefore, I believe that this study is particularly relevant. I admire its intentions to raise awareness, to demonstrate that racial discrimination is still present in our society and its consequences. However, I thought the researchers did not put enough focus on children’s state of health. Indeed, they deeply analyzed the independent variable (exposition to racism and general discrimination), but provided very few information on their findings about their dependent variable, if any. Therefore, I believe they did not fully responded to the question they desired to answer. Furthermore, as the children had a similar background due to convenience sampling, assumptions cannot be made for the population of children from visible-minority groups. Having a control group of white children in order to compare the results could have been interesting. Also, as “race” was listed as a potential reason for being discriminated against, I feel like the study might reinforce the idea that humans can be divided into distinct groups. Therefore, it might raise awareness among the study’s readers, but I wonder how beneficial it is for the respondents. However, I thought their definition of racism was extremely complete as it included explicit and implicit racism as well as the concept of power. 

Word count: 720

APA Reference:

Pachter, L. M., Bernstein, B. A., Szalacha, L. A., & Coll, C. G. (2010). Perceived racism and discrimination in children and youths: An exploratory study. Health & Social Work, 35(1), 61-9. Retrieved from