Discrimination from family members can result in cardiovascular stress among Multiracial individuals

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Race‐related stressors might harm physiological health in Multiracial individuals, according to new research published in the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development.

“As a Multiracial person, I realized our experiences are often not talked about, even though we go through some really awful things,” said Marisa Franco, a practicing psychologist and the corresponding author of the study.

“In conducting this study, Multiracial participants broke down crying, and spoke about being called the n-word, being excommunicated, being scolded for ‘talking Black.’ And all of these experiences were perpetrated by their own family members.”

The researchers monitored the blood pressure and heart rate of 60 Multiracial participants as they were asked to imagine and then discuss engaging in a leisurely activity, experiencing discrimination from their family members, and having their identity invalidated.

The researchers found that discussing discrimination by family members was associated with altered cardiovascular responses. In particular, blood pressure tended to drop while discussing discrimination by family members, and then subsequently jumped during a 3-minute recovery phase.

Blood pressure may have dropped because talking about discrimination had a cathartic effect or because the participants disengaged to cope with stress, and then increased because participants were ruminating about the event during the recovery phase.

“Although the current study did not actively measure rumination in the recovery phase, rumination has been found to occur in periods directly following stressful events. Thus, it is possible that rumination played a mediating role in reactivity to discrimination from family,” the researchers explained.

Franco said the findings highlight “that for Multiracial people, experiences of racial discrimination from family members are harmful for physical health.”

“People don’t know this, but some data from the Center for Disease Control finds that Multiracial people have the worst mental health of any racial group. In this study, I was trying to figure out why,” she added.

Discussing identity invalidation did not appear to affect cardiovascular responses, which could be because participants brought up experiences that had occurred many years ago. “Thus, their experiences may have ceased to be stressful by the time the participant engaged in the study,” the researchers said.

Franco hopes the study will stimulate more research on how racial stress impacts the physiological health of Multiracial individuals.

“In the study, we asked people to talk about their experiences of racial stress while taking their blood pressure to figure out how racial stress affects them. However, talking about these experiences in the lab isn’t the same as going through them. I’d love to see some research that examines the effects of these stressors in real-time, perhaps by giving Multiracial participants a heart rate monitor as they go about their day,” Franco explained.

The study, “Taking Racism to Heart: Race‐Related Stressors and Cardiovascular Reactivity for Multiracial People“, was authored by Marisa Franco and Karen M. O’Brien.TrendMD v2.4.8