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New study highlights toll of discrimination on immigrant youth

LatinaLista — Are young people becoming less kind with one another? Less willing to help each other?

Most would say no. After all, one only has to look at the success of the many crowdfunding and social media campaigns. Yet, there’s no denying that for those young people who directly experience the ugliness of humanity, their feelings of lending a helping hand may not come as quickly.

A new study by researchers at the University of Missouri found that Latino immigrant youth, who had been discriminated against. experienced more depression or depressive symptoms and were less likely to help others.

Researchers gave 302 Latino immigrant youth, ages 13 to 17, who had lived in the United States for five years or less, three quesionnaires over the course of a year. The surveys asked about their experiences with discrimination, their mental health and whether they volunteered or helped others.

Not surprisingly, those who had experienced discrimination felt more negative about themselves, their surroundings and the idea of helping others — a foregone conclusion.

So, what’s the purpose of the study?

“Our research program focuses on understanding the development, origins, and social consequences of prosocial behaviors. We view prosocial behaviors as important because they are indicators of healthy social functioning—they are basic to forming and maintaining positive relationships,” wrote study co-author Gustavo Carlo, the Millsap Professor of Diversity and Multicultural Studies in MU’s College of Human Environmental Science, to Latina Lista.

“They form the basis of cooperative and thriving communities and societies. It concerns us that discrimination experiences can lead to depressive symptoms and subsequently mitigate being kind to others, helping others, and cooperating with others. Ultimately, this is a mechanism whereby we, as a society, can become isolated, segregated, and groups may become more marginalized.”

When asked if there was anything that surprised the researchers about the data, Dr. Carlo said there was one thing that appeared that never had been seen before.

“This study showed unlike previous studies that there may be a cyclical process such that discrimination is related to both depressive symptoms and prosocial behaviors (especially altruistic), but then there is a reciprocal relation between depressive symptoms and altruistic behaviors,” Dr. Carlo said. “Over time, this cyclical process may reinforce these links leading to less and less social cooperation. The evidence for the back and forth was new to us.”

An unfortunate consequence that impacts way too many youth who, regardless of politics, remains everyone’s future.


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