Objective To determine the prevalence of direct and vicarious racial discrimination experiences from peer, school and societal sources, and examine associations between these experiences and socioemotional and sleep outcomes.
Methods Data were analysed from a population representative cross-sectional study of n=4664 school students in years 5–9 (10–15 years of age) in Australia. Students reported direct experiences of racial discrimination from peers, school and societal sources; vicarious discrimination was measured according to the frequency of witnessing other students experiences of racial discrimination. Students self-reported on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, with the total difficulties, conduct, emotional and prosocial behaviour subscales examined. Sleep problems included duration, latency, and disruption.
Results 41.56% (95% CI 36.18 to 47.15) of students reported experiences of direct racial discrimination; Indigenous and ethnic minority students reported the highest levels. 70.15% (95% CI 63.83 to 75.78) of students reported vicarious racial discrimination. Direct and vicarious experiences of racial discrimination were associated with socioemotional adjustment (eg, for total difficulties, total direct racism: beta=3.77, 95% CI 3.11 to 4.44; vicarious racism: beta=2.51, 95% CI 2.00 to 3.03). Strong evidence was also found for an effect of direct and vicarious discrimination on sleep (eg, for sleep duration, total direct: beta=−21.04, 95% CI −37.67 to −4.40; vicarious: beta=−9.82, 95% CI −13.78 to −5.86).
Conclusions Experiences of direct and vicarious racial discrimination are common for students from Indigenous and ethnic minority backgrounds, and are associated with socioemotional and sleep problems in adolescence. Racism and racial discrimination are critically important to tackle as social determinants of health for children and adolescents.
- race and health
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Contributors NP conceptualised and designed the study, drafted the initial manuscript, conducted analyses and reviewed and revised the manuscript for important intellectual content. SC conceptualised and designed the study, conducted analyses, contributed to interpretation of data and critically reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content. MT and OA collected data, conceptualised and designed the study, contributed to interpretation of data and critically reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content. KD, MO’C, YP, AW and AK conceptualised and designed the study, contributed to interpretation of data and critically reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
Funding SOAR was funded by the Australian Research Council LP140100413 in partnership with the New South Wales and Victorian education departments and the Australian Human Rights Commission. NP is supported by a NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (APP1123677).
Disclaimer The study sponsors had no role in study design; the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; the writing of the report or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was obtained from the Australian National University and from each state government education department, and permission was obtained from each participating school principal, with parent opt out consent and student assent.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement No data are available. Data are not publicly available; please contact Naomi Priest (firstname.lastname@example.org) for data access queries or requests.
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