Pregnant mother holding her stomach

Study in Young Mothers Underscores Discrimination’s Ill Effects

Stress and coping with racism and discrimination are associated with higher levels of depression among young Black mothers, new research from Columbia University School of Nursing shows. 

Endowed Professor Jacquelyn Taylor, PhD, founding executive director of the Center for Research on People of Color at Columbia Nursing, and Assistant Professor Veronica Barcelona, PhD, conducted the study with colleagues from Florida State University and Yale University School of Medicine. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. 

“There is a paucity of research on determinants of depression in low-income African American women,” notes Barcelona. “We sought to examine if racism/discrimination, stress and coping styles contributed to depressive symptoms in African American women from the InterGEN Study. We found that higher levels of stress and use of avoidant and passive coping styles to cope with racism/discrimination were associated with increased reporting of depressive symptoms.” 

Fifty-seven percent of the women in the study, of 250 mothers of preschool-aged children, reported at least one experience of racial discrimination. 

“In addition to illuminating how racism and discrimination directly affects the health and well-being of Black women, we need to better understand how vicarious racism affects children and their health early on in life,” Professor Taylor says. 

“Early interventions that focus on eliminating racist and discriminatory policies and practices are what is truly needed to combat health inequities in Black populations. All the coping strategies and health interventions will be minimal in addressing health inequities if racism and discrimination is allowed to continue unchecked. The problem and fix is not with coping, but the true answer is with the elimination of racist and discriminatory practices allowable in our society.”