African-American Children and Anxiety

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Social Issue/Problem: Anxiety

Cultural Group: African American


Anxiety is an issue many African American children face. According to the Compton et. Al (2000) African American children scored high on separation anxiety and low on social phobia; the opposite of white children (Gray, Carter and Silverman 2011). Anxiety sensitivity refers to the fear that symptoms of anxiety (e.g., racing heart) are beyond someone’s control and have hazardous somatic, psychological, or social effects (Reiss 1991). Findings suggests that fear of anxiety, including in children, can be dangerous for the development of and managing anxiety symptoms (e.

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g., Reiss 1991; Silverman and Weems 1998).

Literature Review

Parental Roles

Parental roles play a part in children’s anxiety. In the Children’s Report of Parent Behavior Inventory, the study had 266 African American school-age children rate on a scale of one to three on two main questions. A one on the scale represented “not like”, two represented “somewhat like” and three meant “a lot”. The first question was about the amount the child’s parents praise them and the second question addressed whether the child thinks the parent used an authoritative or authoritarian parenting style (Schludermann and Schludermann 1988). The results showed that there is no connection between anxiety sensitivity and parental control. However, there were connections between other types of anxiety that related to parental control and acceptance. For example, the study’s results showed that there is a relation between perceived parental control and social and separation anxiety. Another relation found in the study was the relation between the authority parents had and social and separation anxiety. Parents pressure and praise are not the only factor that play a role in African American children’s anxiety.

Ethnic Pride

Ethnic pride was another factor that was looked at in the study. To assess the children’s ethnic pride researchers used the Multigroup Ethnic Measure, or MEIM scale.  Using another three- point scale the children were asked to rate questions about their ethnic pride. The three-point scale ranged from one representing “none” and three representing “a lot” (Phinney 1992).  The first question addressed the time the child spent learning about their cultural background. The second asked the children to rate the amount of time they have spent in different clubs that other children of the same ethnicity also belong to. The final part of this section of the study asked the children if they felt that they were connected and felt accepted by their own ethnic group. The results showed that there is a positive correlation between parents’ acceptance and ethnic pride. However, the child’s ethnic pride and perceived parental control had no correlation. As for the relationship between anxiety and ethnic pride, the researchers concluded that there was a correlation with harm avoidance symptoms. However, there are no other relations between ethnic pride and other types of anxiety. There are limits in the study though. One main limitations of the study is having the children self-report (Silverman and Eisen 1992). This is a limitation because parents answering similar questions can help researchers understand the child-rearing styles these children are growing up with. Also, the way the child is being socialized is a limitation because it may be a part of the child’s cultural background. Therefore, another limitation of this study is how the researchers collected their data. Using the Multigroup Ethnic Measure Scale presents limitations because it leaves out two other major aspects of the African American child’s life. The aspects left out include mental processes and the family’s social location. (Resse et. Al 1998).

Needs, Prevention, and Solution

Unmet Needs



Although anxiety is something African American children face, there are solutions. In a study conducted to identify if there are any differences in children who suffer from anxiety based on race, the treatment process was examined. This treatment process included pharmaceutical therapy, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, which is also known as CBT. In a similar study that was focused on attrition, rates in psychotherapy, it was discovered that African Americans had a higher rate of ending their therapy before it was completely finished. Attrition is when patients quit their services before the end. These results show that there are resources out there that can help African American children who have anxiety, people however do not always use the tools they are given. Gordon-Hollingsworth et al., (2014)


  1. Gordon-Hollingsworth, A. T., Becker, E. M., Ginsburg, G. S., Keeton, C., Compton, S. N., Birmaher, B. B., & Skolsky, D. J. (2014, October 8). Anxiety Disorders in Caucasian and African American Children: A Comparison of Clinical Characteristics, Treatment Process Variables, and Treatment Outcome. In Springer Link. Retrieved November 28, 2018, from
  2. Gray, C.M.K., Carter, R. & Silverman, W.K. J Child Fam Stud (2011) 20: 205.
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African-American Children and Anxiety. (2019, Feb 18). Retrieved from