Stressful Life Circumstances in African American Communities

How does this stress affect black children?

Natalie Astrid

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Photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash

This article looks at a study that focuses on stressful life circumstances and resources to support African American children in the Midwestern United States. The study asked caregivers of African American children between the ages of 8 to 12 who were enrolled in an urban elementary school during the 2011–2012 school year. This school was chosen due to its population being mostly lower-income families.

African Americans can be disadvantaged by the number of stressors at home from health, relationships, work, economics, law-based events, and the systemic institution of racism that can fall into each category. This study’s goal was to see if quality relationships between a caregiver and child could reduce the ability of the child to experience internalized and externalized symptoms of stress.

This study found that students with more emotional support from their caregivers had fewer externalizing symptoms. Additionally, their caregiver reported less oppositional behavior and ADHD symptoms from their child. It showed the importance of helping children process stressful events through discussion and parental support.

Additionally, finding that therapeutic intervention can be beneficial to strengthen the caregiver and child’s relationship for more effective communication skills led to a decrease in the child’s behavioral problems reported back by the caregiver. Stressful events such as health or relationship problems can be a huge stressor for the child because it leaves the caregivers in a difficult situation to care for them, thus causing more stress for the child to care for themselves. Moreover, showing that strong family units and communities are better prepared to protect and support their children from the negative impacts of possible future stressors.

In conclusion, this study examined the independent factors of children’s stressors and the support they get from their caregivers. Its results showed the importance of having active and supportive caregivers around, which decreased negative behavior and ADHD symptoms.

Though mental health services have been stigmatized in many African American communities, the article states that increasing the expansion and availability of family-based mental health services within schools and districts could improve child support systems, reduce conflict with caregivers, and promote more resilient African American families.

Woerpel, Winston, Brady, 2017

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Natalie Astrid

Theatre and Film creator, Marriage and Family therapy student, and girl just trying her best.