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Researchers study effects of discrimination on immigrant youth

Gustavo Carlo collaborated with Alexandra Davis to study how Latino immigrant youth are affected by discrimination. Images courtesy of MU News Bureau. 

Alexandra Davis found Latino immigrant youth who reported feeling discriminated against had more depressive symptoms and were less likely to perform altruistic behaviors six months and a year after experiencing discrimination.


Recent conversations in the United States have centered on discrimination issues; yet, little is known about how discrimination affects youths’ mental health and their willingness to help others. Now, University of Missouri researchers found Latino immigrant youth who reported feeling discriminated against had more depressive symptoms and were less likely to perform altruistic behaviors six months and a year after experiencing discrimination.

“It’s important to consider that experiencing discrimination starts to wear on cognitive and emotional resources that youth may have, which can lead to symptoms of depression, sadness and withdrawal,” said Alexandra Davis, a doctoral candidate in the MU Department of Human Development and Family Science. “Once they are experiencing these withdrawal symptoms, it becomes harder for them to engage in selfless forms of helping because they have less resources available to give to others, and it works both ways. Experiencing discrimination and becoming more withdrawn and less engaged in helping behaviors, in turn, might contribute to depressive symptoms. It can become a cycle.”

For the study, 302 Latino immigrants between the ages of 13 and 17 completed three questionnaires over the course of a year about discrimination experiences, mental health and prosocial behaviors, such as volunteering or helping others. The youth had lived in the United States for five years or less. The study controlled for the teens’ previous levels of depression and involvement in helping behaviors in order to observe changes over time.

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Campus: UMC
Key words: Health, Innovation, MU Campus,
County: Boone

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