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Parents’ experiences of racism and child internalizing behaviors: The moderating role of preparation for bias

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

The effects of racism on ethnic minority adults are well documented, with more self-reported racism and more institutionalized racism related to worse mental and physical health outcomes (Paradies, 2006). These effects are felt by children as well, whether directly through personal experiences of prejudice in academic contexts, or indirectly through effects on parents. Additionally, the messages and practices parents use to enhance cultural pride (cultural socialization) and prepare children for prejudice (PFB; preparation for bias) can directly influence child social-behavioral outcomes (Hughes, 2006). Though the literature on cultural socialization has reached a general consensus for the positive effects on youth development, the literature on PFB is more conflicted and rarely extends beyond African American, school-age and young adult samples. Specifically, samples including Latinos are few, despite support for commonality in experiences (Liu & Lau, 2013). In addition, as children navigate their social worlds with increased autonomy, parents of color may increase the amount of PFB socialization provided to their children in anticipation of more race- and prejudice-related conversations. Early elementary school may represent an important developmental period for PFB and its effects on child outcomes. The current study addresses a gap in the literature by assessing the effects of parents’ experiences with racism and the moderating role of PFB on the internalizing behaviors of African American and Latinx first graders.
The current study assessed 325 parent-child dyads across two time points. At least one parent self-identified as African American or Latinx, and all were living below 200% of the federal poverty level. Child age was approximately 6.29 years and 7.27 years during kindergarten and first grade respectively (43.7% female, 51.7% Latinx). The Recent subscale of the Schedule of Racist Events (SRE; Landrine & Klonoff, 1996) measured the frequency of racist experiences for parents in the past year. Parent-report PFB socialization was measured using Parent’s Messages to Children about Race/Ethnicity (Hughes & Chen, 1997), and the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001; CBCL/6-18) assessed child internalizing behaviors. Higher scores across measures represent more of each construct.
Using structural equation modeling, a product term was created representing the interaction between sum scores of recent racism experiences and a higher order construct of preparation for bias (5 of 6 items had significant loadings). The moderating effect was significant (b = 0.27, p < .05, CI [0.02 – 0.53]) after controlling for the race of the primary caregiver and internalizing scores in kindergarten. A probe of the moderation (Figure 1) indicated a disordinal relation among study variables.
For parents reporting more racism experiences, PFB socialization protected children against developing internalizing behaviors. Parents reporting fewer experiences of racism, but also less PFB socialization with their children, had children with the highest internalizing scores. Children who experience prejudice, but do not know how to label these experiences or how to respond, may attribute these events to personal characteristics and internalize negative feelings. These results support prior research indicating that parental denial of racism can lead to increased internalizing behaviors in preschool-aged children (Caughy et al., 2004).

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