From The Grio — Persistent unemployment has heightened stress in many black households across the United States. Relationships are strained. Homes have been lost. Personal debt is increasing. Medical insurance coverage is lacking.
Now, experts say the effects of economic strife are also affecting the mental health of children in these households.
Blacks continue to have the highest unemployment rate of any ethnic group — 16.1 percent — according to unemployment statistics released today. And, while children from any background can react negatively to parental stress, black children are uniquely affected.
“Children are very observant,” says Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. “They are attune to changes in mood, changes in your tone of voice, whether you look fatigued and your energy level.”
Dr. Michael Pratts, clinical assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical Campus, agrees: “Children take emotional cues from their parents. A stressed parent causes a stressed child.”
Since children, especially younger children, do not posses the vocabulary or emotional maturity to express their own stress, it manifests in other ways.
“They will throw the doll against the wall, or aggressively assert themselves,” says Dr. Breland-Noble. “They won’t yell at mom, so they will yell at the best friend, or go to school and have a smart response to the teacher.”
Slightly older children may exhibit signs of depression often mistaken for laziness or stereotypical teenage moodiness, Dr. Breland-Noble says. This includes sleeping significantly more or less, irritable or angry behavior and eating a lot more or a lot less than usual. Some children will become preoccupied with death. Others will resort to risky behaviors, such as sexually promiscuity.