Jan 4, 2024

Studying the influence of anti-Black racism on stress in Black children and youth

Shawna Grossman is a doctoral student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, and Leong Centre Studentship Recipient. She provides an update on a systematic review she is working on which explores the current literature surrounding experiences of anti-Black racism (ABR) among Black children and youth and associated stress and trauma responses.

Black children and youth have borne a disproportionate burden of racism’s detrimental effects, experiencing racial discrimination more frequently compared to individuals from other ethnic and racial backgrounds. Children are especially vulnerable to the negative health effects of racism, given that early childhood represents a sensitive period for the biological incorporation of stress and adversity. Most literature reviews focus on exploring the stress and general consequences caused by racial discrimination in adult populations across various racial groups. However, to the best of our knowledge, no current literature syntheses have examined race-related physical and mental health outcomes associated with stress among Black youth specifically.

My PhD work is a systematic review of the relation between ABR and mental and physical health symptoms associated with stress and post-traumatic stress symptomatology (e.g., intrusive thoughts or memories, anxiety, depression, aggression, substance use, addiction, risk-taking behaviours, alterations in mood). With support of health science librarians at the University of Toronto, a search strategy was conducted and the initial search was completed; yielding over 9000 results. Currently, we are working to screen eligible studies based on full text reviews and export relevant data for comparison across studies. Results from preliminary data extraction and aggregation procedures have elucidated the direction and magnitude of reported associations across studies, as well as several mechanisms of impact. Preliminary findings highlight ABR's significant role in influencing youth wellbeing, furthering our understanding of its physical and mental health impacts on stress.

The completion of our literature review is an important step in addressing a recognized public health concern and informs recommendations for future related empirical and applied work dedicated to improving Black youths' health and stress in the face of pervasive racism. In particular, the findings of this research will serve as a broad conceptualization of existing evidence to inform further research, policy, practice, and clinical interventions for Black children and youth experiencing race-related stress.