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Positive Feelings About Race Boosts Development in Children

Update Date: Feb 03, 2014 01:15 PM EST

Feeling positive about race can decrease symptoms of depression and emotional and behavioral problems, according to a new study.

New research reveals that young people with positive feelings about their racial or ethnic identity have better social interactions and self-esteem, performed better in school and had fewer problems with drugs or alcohol.

"Ethnic and racial identity is a complex issue among minority youth. Feeling positively about ethnic or racial identity is not going to solve all the issues minority youth face, but this research shows that it clearly helps them in many ways," lead researcher Deborah Rivas-Drake, formerly at Brown University, an associate professor of psychology and education at the University of Michigan, said in a news release. "This research also refutes the notion that positive racial or ethnic identity is somehow related to having not-so-positive attitudes toward academic achievement."

The latest study wanted to determine how race affects how an individual feels about his or her ethnicity or race determines their wellbeing, distress, health risk and academic achievements. The latest study involved African American, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and American Indian youth in the United States, primarily middle and high school students.

"Our findings show that the positive associations between ethnic-racial affect and key outcomes function similarly across groups of children differing in age, gender, and particular ethnic-racial categories," added Rivas-Drake. "Young people who are exposed to experiences that promote positive feelings about their ethnic or racial heritage-such as when minority parents teach their children about their ethnic heritage or instill pride in their race-may reap not only psychological benefits but also greater commitment and connection to academics. They may also have less risk of unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drug use, all of which have important long-term implications for health, well-being, and economic opportunity."

The findings are published in the journal Child Development.

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