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

Jan 25, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Join the Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Children and Youth for our first Lean In speaker of the new year, Cynthia G. Colen, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Colleges of Sociology and Public Health at Ohio State. 

Dr. Colen will explore the growing body of research suggesting that maternal exposure to discrimination helps to explain racial disparities in children’s health. However, no study has considered if the intergenerational health effects of unfair treatment 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 mothers’ 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 explain almost 10% of the Black/White gap but little of the Hispanic/White gap in self-rated health among these mothers. We conclude that the negative health impacts of discrimination are likely to operate in a bidirectional fashion across key family relationships.