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Support Shields Kids from Racist Slurs

Family, friends act as buffer against discrimination, study shows

THURSDAY, Sept. 14, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Racial discrimination can spur depression and behavior problems in adolescents, but it can also be counterbalanced by support from homes, friends and school, a new study finds.

The study, published in the September/October issue of Child Development, set out to evaluate the psychological adjustment of 714 black children. Researchers from the University of Georgia in Athens, the University of California-Davis and Iowa State University in Ames interviewed the children and their primary caregivers three times over five years, beginning when they were 10 to 12 years old.

Children whose experience with racially based insults, name calling and distrust increased as they got older were more likely to report symptoms of depression, the researchers found. Boys subjected to discrimination were more likely to become involved in antisocial behaviors such as fighting and shoplifting.

"The outlook was brighter, though, for children whose homes, friends, and schools protected them from discrimination's negative influences," said lead researcher Gene Brody, Regents' Professor and Director of the Center for Family Research at the University of Georgia, in a prepared statement.

"Children whose parents stayed involved in their lives, kept track of their whereabouts, treated them with warm affection and communicated clearly with them were less likely to develop problems due to their experiences with discrimination," Brody said.

The adolescents whose friends encouraged them to take part in positive pursuits (e.g., helping out at home), and those who performed well at school and had good relationships with teachers, were also protected from the negative effects of discrimination.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about helping your child with social problems.

SOURCE: Society for Research in Child Development, news release, Sept. 14, 2006
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