The Influences of Race, Ethnicity, and Poverty on the Mental Health of Children


Sufficient evidence demonstrates that poverty has a negative effect on the psychological well-being of children, but most research has focused only on white populations. The purpose of this literature review is to gain a better understanding of the positive and negative influences of socioeconomic factors, cultural/ethnic characteristics, and racial differences on the mental health of children. A review of the literature on the influence of race, ethnicity, and poverty on the mental health of children found that (1) children whose parents are in poverty or who have experienced severe economic losses are more likely to report or be reported to have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and antisocial behaviors; and (2) after controlling for socioeconomic status, African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics are less likely to report or be reported to have such mental health problems. A theoretical construct for this protective effect is related to cultural factors, such as perceived social support, deep religiosity/spirituality, extended families, and maternal coping strategies as buffers against psychological distress.