Essex: Racism 'Harms Children's Learning'

3 September 2012, 06:00

Children from families subjected to racist abuse are more likely to struggle in school, according to University of Essex research.

The study has found that racial prejudice had an impact on children as young as five.

Youngsters from the families affected were found to be more likely to struggle with cognitive tests and faced more socio-emotional problems than other children their ages.

The findings were based on a study of 2,000 five-year-olds from ethnic minority backgrounds and their mothers.

Of the women, more than one in five had experienced racist abuse, with 23% suffering verbal insults in the past 12 months, 20% reporting unfair treatment and 23% reporting unfair treatment of a family member.

Researchers found that their children were more likely to have socio-emotional issues - such as hyper-activity or problems interacting with their peers.

They also received lower scores in cognitive skills tests - a key influence on academic achievement - while the results also showed a small increased risk of obesity.

Professor Yvonne Kelly of Essex University, who carried out the research, said the findings showed how racism could affect the way families brought up their children. 

"Our findings suggest experienced racism or feeling fearful about racist victimisation might impact on what parents allow their children to do, and constrain their capacity to provide the conditions to foster healthy child development,'' she said.

"Living in an area where racist attacks are perceived to be common may lead to children spending less time outside the home environment than might otherwise be the case, thus limiting the breadth and interactions and experiences with others outside the home setting.

"This may be further compounded by the impact of poor parental mental health, linked to experienced racism and discrimination, which is in turn likely to lead to non-favourable parent-child interactions and parenting behaviours.''

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