National Institute on Aging

University of Houston Researcher Examines Death Ideation Among Black Children

rheeda-walkerA new study led by Rheeda Walker, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston, finds that about one third of African American children had thoughts of death or dying. Death ideation can be a predictor of suicide.

Dr. Walker examined data on more than 700 African American children in Georgia and Iowa. The children were interviewed at age 10 and again at age 12. Dr. Walker found that death ideation was accounted for in part by experiences of racial discrimination faced by the children

Dr. Walker’s findings offer insight for educators and parents, who can perhaps implement interventions if they suspect or observe mistreatment of children because of race, as well as feelings of anxiety or stress following incidents of discrimination. She observed that girls who expressed nervousness, fear or depression as a result of racial discrimination were somewhat more likely to think about death than boys.

“When a child experiences discrimination, he or she may say to themselves, ‘I’m not worthy’ or ‘I’m not good enough,’” Dr. Walker said. “Effective interventions can offset these feelings and help a child’s self esteem.” She holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University.

The study, “A Longitudinal Study of Racial Discrimination and Risk for Death Ideation in African-American Youth,” has been published on the website of the Journal of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. It may be accessed here.


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