Chinese American parents and children have experienced increased racism due to COVID-19, report UMBC researchers in Pediatrics

Published: Sep 16, 2020

an image of a grey fuzzy small globe like object with red fluffy objects sticking out.
Image by Alachua County, used under Public Domain Mark 1.0. (Image by Alachua County, used under Public Domain Mark 1.0.)

A team of researchers led by Charissa Cheah, professor of psychology at UMBC, has found that a high percentage of Chinese American parents and children have witnessed and experienced an increase in racial discrimination since the outbreak of COVID-19. 

The team was one of the first to receive a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research (RAPID) award to examine an issue related to COVID-19. The study is titled “RAPID: Influences of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak on Racial Discrimination, Identity Development and Socialization.” The researchers’ findings are now published in Pediatrics

The impacts of experiencing racism

The data reveal that large percentages of Chinese Americans are experiencing racism at interpersonal, institutional, and collective levels, both in person and online, during COVID-19. These experiences harm both adults’ and children’s mental health, and reflect a history of racism against Asian Americans in the United States. 

Portrait of woman in navy blue top and necklace, taken outdoors
Charissa Cheah.
Photo courtesy of Cheah.

The team suggests that public health strategies are urgently needed to decrease fear, stigmatization, and discrimination. They recommend that schools develop strategies to address racism targeting Asian American youth. They also note that healthcare professionals need to be educated on how to address the mental health needs of this population.

Cheah is a cultural developmental psychologist. She completed the research with co-investigators Shimei Pan, assistant professor of information systems at UMBC, and Cixin Wang, assistant professor of school psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

Sharing research with the public

Cheah has shared different aspects of the research with the media.

In The Washington Post, she cautioned against using language to describe COVID-19 that could fuel discrimination against Asian Americans. In an interview for WYPR she explained the prevalence of racism against Chinese Americans as a result of the pandemic. She commented on the negative health outcomes caused by persistent discrimination in The Baltimore Sun.

Cheah also spoke in a video for Science Magazine about the mental health of Chinese American children and teens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Banner image: The Coronavirus. Image by Alachua County, used under Public Domain Mark 1.0.

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