In the United States, African American families are disproportionately exposed to adversities, such as discrimination and poverty, which are linked to disparities in health and educational attainment for their children.
[Photo: Dr. Sonya Brady]
A University of Minnesota School of Public Health student-led study recently examined African American families and discovered those caregivers who experienced a higher number of life stressors reported more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that when caregivers said they felt more attached to their social network, children said they felt greater emotional support from their caregivers.
The study, which was led by recent MPH graduate and current CDC fellow Tat’Yana Kenigsberg, was published in Children and Youth Services Review.
The results of the study were gathered from surveys of Midwestern African American children aged 8-12 years and caregivers, people children often seek for support during difficult situations. Children and caregivers were interviewed separately to determine if a caregiver’s stressful life events, affective symptoms, and perceived support from their social network were associated with children’s perceptions of support from their caregiver.
“The findings suggest that many caregivers can experience stressors and affective symptoms and still be able to provide adequate support to their children,” says study co-author and Associate Professor Dr. Sonya Brady. “However, the support that African American caregivers receive from their social network may be a critical determinant of whether children perceive adequate emotional and instrumental support from them.”
Dr. Brady believes this research, and additional studies that build on it, could be used to justify policies expanding school- and community-based mental health programs and services to include caregivers as well as children. She recommends that interventions should attempt to enhance social networks of caregivers so that they perceive greater attachment to others; guidance from others; assurance of their worth; reliable alliance; social integration; and opportunities to provide nurturance to others.