If parents experience discrimination, children may have low self-esteem
Photo: Ray_LAC. Creative Commons.

Parents’ experience of discrimination affects their children’s self-esteem

By Child & Family Blog Editor and , | April 2016 

Correlation found between parents’ experience of discrimination and feelings of sadness and low self-esteem on the part of the child.

A study that surveyed Mexican and Mexican-American adolescents along with one of their parents found a correlation between parents’ experience of discrimination (such as suffering a racial insult or being excluded from an activity) and feelings of sadness and low self-esteem on the part of the child. Also, when parents had experienced discrimination and also actively engaged in what the authors call ‘ethnic socialization’ (for example, talking to their children about how people might try to limit them because of their ethnicity), adolescents suffered low mood and low self-esteem. The same thing was found to be true when parents were discriminated against and actively promoted racial mistrust to their children.

Guadalupe Espinoza at California State University, Fullerton, and her colleagues, Andrew Fuligni and Nancy Gonzales, used survey data from 344 Los Angeles 14- to 16-year-olds and one of their parents, collected at two time points, one year apart.

In families where parents had not suffered discrimination, talking to adolescent children about Mexican culture, people and history, was correlated with higher self-esteem on the adolescents’ part.

The study perhaps casts a light on the difficult path that parents who suffer discrimination have to tread: not talk about it, or engage with their children to prepare them for similar experiences?


Espinoza G, Gonzales NA & Fuligni AJ (2016), Parent discrimination predicts Mexican-American adolescent psychological adjustment 1 year later, Child Development

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