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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2013 Jan;67(1):35-41. doi: 10.1136/jech-2011-200814. Epub 2012 Jul 3.

Associations between maternal experiences of racism and early child health and development: findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study.

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Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER), University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, UK.



Emerging evidence suggests that experienced racism might help explain observed ethnic inequalities in early child health and development. There are few studies outside the US context and none that consider mothers' experiences of racism in relation to a range of early childhood health and developmental markers.


The authors used cross-sectional data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study on 2136 mothers and their 5-year-old children from ethnic minority groups. Measures of racism tapped two dimensions of mothers' experience: perceived frequency of racist attacks in residential area and interpersonal racism. Markers of child health and development were obesity; socioemotional difficulties; cognitive: verbal, non-verbal and spatial ability test scores.


There was a suggestion that the mothers' experience of interpersonal racism was associated with an increased risk of obesity ('received insults' OR=1.47; 'treated unfairly' OR=1.57; 'disrespectful treatment by shop staff' OR=1.55), but all CIs crossed 1.0, and size estimates were attenuated on further statistical adjustment. Perception of racism in the residential area was associated with socioemotional difficulties (fully adjusted coefficient=1.40, SE=0.47) and spatial abilities (fully adjusted coefficient=-1.99, SE=0.93) but not with verbal or non-verbal ability scores. Maternal experiences of racist insults were associated with non-verbal ability scores (fully adjusted coefficient=-1.70, SE=0.88).


The results suggest that mothers' experienced racism is linked to markers of early child health and development. Interventions that aim to improve early child development and address ethnic health inequalities need to incorporate approaches to tackling racism at all levels of society.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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