The Intergenerational Transmission of Discrimination: Children’s Experiences of Unfair Treatment and Their Mother’s Health at Midlife

Cynthia G. Colen , The Ohio State University
Qi Li, The Ohio State University
Corinne Reczek, The Ohio State University

A growing body of research suggests that maternal exposure to unfair treatment helps to explain racial disparities in children’s health. However, no study has considered if the intergenerational health effects of discrimination operate in the opposite direction – from child to mother. To this end, we use data from mother/child pairs in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to determine whether adolescent and young adult children’s experiences of discrimination influence their mother’s health across midlife. We find that children who report more frequent instances of discrimination have mothers whose self-rated health declines more rapidly between ages 40 and 50 years. Furthermore, racial disparities in exposure to discrimination among children explains almost 10% of the Black/White gap but little of the Hispanic/White gap in self-rated health among mothers during midlife. We conclude that the negative health impacts of discrimination are likely to operate in a bidirectional fashion across key family relationships.

See paper

 Presented in Session 52. Flash Session: Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Health