Racial discrimination and child and adolescent health in longitudinal studies: A systematic review

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Rationale: The association between racial discrimination and adverse health outcomes has been documented across an increasing body of evidence in recent years, although a close examination of longitudinal studies has not yet taken place. This review applied a life course lens in examining the evidence for a longitudinal association between racial discrimination exposure during childhood and adolescence, and later mental and physical health outcomes. Method: Medline, PsycINFO, Global Health, ERIC, CINAHL Plus, Academic Search Premier and SocINDEX were searched from earliest records to October 2017 for eligible articles. Results were described through a narrative synthesis of the evidence. Results: Findings from 46 studies reported in 88 empirical articles published between 2003 and 2017 were identified. Studies were primarily based on cohorts from the United States, comprised of young people aged 11–18 years, and were published since 2010. Data were most frequently collected over two to three timepoints at intervals exceeding 12 months. Statistically significant associations with racial discrimination were most commonly reported for behaviour problems including delinquency and risk-taking behaviour, with significant adverse effects found in 74% of these associations. Statistically significant adverse effects were also reported in 63% of associations with health-harming behaviours including substance use, and 61% found associations with mental health outcomes. Consistently significant associations were reported between accumulated racism and later health outcomes, and the health effects of racism were reported to vary with developmental periods, although few studies featured these analyses. Conclusions: Evidence from this review highlights that the duration and timing of exposure to racial discrimination matters. This review emphasises the need to gain evidence for the mechanisms linking early racism exposure to adverse health outcomes in later life. Future longitudinal research can address this need by capitalising on prospective cohort studies and ensuring that proposed analysis informs variable selection and timing of data collection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112864
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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