Science News

Discrimination of children and adolescents linked to their mothers poor health

When a child suffers discrimination, the mother can suffer harm not only on a psychological level but also on a health level. Indeed, a new study analyzes the link that exists between unfair social treatment by young adults and the decline in the health of their mothers during middle age.

“Our study suggests that when a child experiences discrimination, these cases of unfair treatment are likely to harm the health of the mother as well as their own,” says Cynthia Colen, a sociology professor at Ohio State University and lead author.

This is the first study that finds a link in the “opposite” direction between discrimination and unfair treatment of children and young people and the health of their mothers. Previously, links had been found between unfair treatment of pregnant women and the health of their children.

To carry out the study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the researchers analyzed two generations of families using data from a survey started in 1979 that followed the subjects for more than forty years. The database consisted of data concerning 3,004 mothers and 6,562 children.

Discrimination levels and unfair treatment were assessed through responses to specific surveys while mothers’ health was self-assessed. All mothers were between 40 and 50 years old. The researchers also discovered racial disparities in the results: African American adolescents and young adults reported most of the experiences of discrimination and 31% of black mothers reported having poor health compared to 17% of white mothers and 26% of mothers Hispanic.

“We now know that these negative health effects are not limited to the person experiencing firsthand discrimination – instead they are intergenerational and will likely contribute to racial health disparities which means that black people can expect to die younger and live a lesser life,” reports Colen.