Kids are very fragile human beings who can easily be affected by a lot of negative factors. One of them is toxic stress – exposure to racism and violence. Studies have shown that being exposed to racism and violence at a young age can leave a long-lasting impact on children’s learning ability, behavioral patterns, and health quality.
Impacts of toxic stress on children
According to a study carried out by Dr. Gilbert Gee and his team at UCLA, repeated exposure to moderate racial discrimination can lead to illnesses. Racism leads to discrimination on aspects of housing and school, which limits a kid’s potential and leaves a negative impact on their opportunities and future. More severely, long-term exposure to racism can lead to shortened lifespan. Early childhood experience of racial discrimination may produce stressors. These stressors affect how the child’s brain develops and disrupts the neural connections between different regions. New evidence also points out that people who suffer from racism consume more fatty food, thus are at more risks to health.
Children who are exposed to violence, either directly or indirectly, through media can suffer from long-term impacts:
−On the psychological aspect: They may suffer from fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, withdrawal, problems in relationships, aggression, oppositional behavior, and disobedience.
−On the cognitive aspect: Poor school performance and limited ability to solve conflicts or problems.
−In the long run: Constant state of depression and trauma or tendency to be violent in adult life.
How to limit the effects of discrimination?
The importance of identity
Although racially-motivated behaviors still cannot be eradicated, there is a way to limit them. A person who is identified with his or her own ethnic group will less likely have symptoms of depression. A stronger sense of ethnic identity equals having pride in one’s own ethnicity, taking part in cultural activities of that ethnicity and having thorough and clear knowledge of one’s origin. The pride and the identity that children gain from their ethnicity do not only protect them from racism but also push back stress and depression.
Howard University in Washington DC carried out a study to show that parents’ own experience of racism or violence and the way they teach children how to cope with them can make the situation better for their children. According to the study, communication is of the utmost importance. Talking to children about discrimination and violence is crucial for their development and health. Also, boosting your child’s confidence by teaching him or her about ethnicity as well as helping your kid build pride for your race can instill resilience inside of your child, so that he or she can be protected from toxic stress. Remember to be nurturing and not so harsh parents to help your child build self-esteem and lessen their levels of stress and anxiety.
You might also want to read:
- Vegetarian Diet and Kids
- Why Is My Baby Always Sick?
- Nutritional Differences Between Fresh and Powdered Milk
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: April 29, 2017 | Last Modified: August 30, 2017
Children and racism: the long-term impact on health. http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/News/NewsAndFeatures/Pages/children-racism-long-term-impacts.aspx/ Accessed April 26, 2017
How Does Exposure to Violence Affect Children? http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/715781/ Accessed April 26, 2017