How Children Inherit Discrimination's Effects

When a child's family members experience stress related to ethnic discrimination and the process of adapting to a new culture, the child's behavior and academics may suffer as a result, according to a new study.

The study, led by University of Arizona researcher Katharine Zeiders and published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, focuses specifically on Mexican-origin families with a teenage mother and an involved "mother figure" — in most cases, the teen's own mom. 

Researchers found that in families in which mothers and mother figures reported higher levels of ethnic discrimination and acculturation stress, children exhibited more behavioral problems and worse academic performance by age 5.

"This work underscores the negative, deleterious impact of discrimination and culturally related stressors on children's well-being, and points to the fact that we need to start thinking about stressors outside of just being economically disadvantaged," said Zeiders, UA assistant professor of family studies and human development in the John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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