Mixed-race children at greater risk of mental health issues

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Mixed-race children experience greater risks to their mental health with secondary school being a particularly vulnerable time, a new report has revealed.

Mixed Experiences – Growing Up Mixed Race: Mental health and wellbeing draws on first-hand accounts of people of mixed race background growing up in the UK.

It finds that these children are at greater risk of experiencing mental health problems as a result of poor self-esteem and the experience of discrimination from both Black and White peers.

It says that mixed race children can struggle to develop an identity for themselves with which they are comfortable and that schools often “do not understand their backgrounds”.

The report states: “Unrealistic expectations from both teachers and other adults, that children of mixed race would be fully conversant with both sides of their cultural heritage, were reported by many of the participants.”

Secondary school was identified as a difficult period for many participants, bringing as it did “heightened experiences of discrimination and racism from both peers and adults”.

It also brought isolation as peer groups often form around ethnicity and culture, which can leave those of mixed race “on the outside”.

The report adds: “School difficulties appear mainly in the secondary school years, and it is evident from other studies that there are very few services that offer mixed-race children and young people any special in-school support.

“A strong message emerging from the experiences people describe is that children and young people of mixed race need to be acknowledged as such, provided with good role-models (possibly through the school curriculum) and afforded the opportunity to talk with others of mixed race if they feel the need.”

The findings come at a time when the number of UK residents claiming mixed ethnicity is rising sharply. 

According to the 2011 census, the UK’s ethnic minority population has grown from nine to 14 per cent since 2001, with the number of mixed-race young people increasing substantially.

The report’s co-author, Cathy Street said: “To develop support that is appropriate, relevant and robust, professionals working with children and young people of mixed race need to be aware of the particular risks to mental health and emotional wellbeing that may be present in the lives of these young people.”

The report is available online from www.ncb.org.uk/what-we-do/publications


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