for Families with Multiracial Children
Multiracial children are one of
the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population.
The number of mixed-race families in America
is steadily increasing, due to a rise in interracial
marriages and relationships, as well as an increase
in transracial and international adoptions. Publicity
surrounding prominent Americans of mixed cultural
heritage, such as athletes, actors, musicians
and politicians, has highlighted the issues of
multicultural individuals and challenged long-standing
views of race. However, despite some changes
in laws and evolving social attitudes, multiracial
children still face significant challenges.
About two million American children have parents
of difference races. In the United States marriages
between blacks and whites increased 400 percent
in the last 30 years, with a 1000 percent increase
in marriages between whites and Asians. In a
recent survey, 47% of white teens, 60% of black
teens and 90% of Hispanic teens said they had
dated someone of another race.
Emotional Needs of Multiracial Children
Recent research has shown that multiracial children
do not differ from other children in self-esteem,
comfort with themselves or number of psychiatric
problems. Also, they tend to be high achievers
with a strong sense of self and tolerant of diversity.
Children in a multiracial family may have different
racial identities from one another. Their racial
identity is influenced by their individual physical
features, family attachments and support and
experiences with racial groups. To cope with
society biases, mixed-race children may develop
a public identity with the "minority" race,
while maintaining a private interracial identity
with family and friends.
Research has shown that children with a true
multiracial or multicultural identity generally
grow up to be happier than multiracial children
who grow up with a "single-race" identity.
Multiracial children in divorced families may
have greater difficulties accepting and valuing
the cultures of both parents.
The Role of Parents
Some interracial families face discrimination
in their communities. Some children from multiracial
families report teasing, whispers and stares
when with their family.
Parents can help their children cope with these
pressures by establishing open communication
in the family about race and cultures and by
allowing curiosity about differences in skin
color, hair texture and facial features among
family members. Parents can also help their children
in the following ways:
Assist children with developing coping skills
to handle questions and/or biases about their
Help children deal with racism without feeling
Encourage and support a multicultural life for
the whole family, including becoming familiar
with language, traditions and customs of all
Live in a diverse community where the sense of
being different or unacceptable is minimized.
Understand that children may have feelings of
guilt or disloyalty to a parent if they choose
to adopt the racial identity and/or culture of
one parent. Recognize that children may identify
with different parts of their heritage at different
stages of development or in varied settings in
order to "fit in."
Locate books, textbooks and movies that portray
multiracial individuals as positive role models,
as well as books about the lives of multicultural
Establish support networks for your child from
the school, grandparents, relatives, neighbors
and the greater community.
For the majority of multiracial children, growing
up associated with multiple races and cultures
is enriching, rewarding and contributes to healthy
adult adjustment. Some multiracial children may
be uncomfortable with their diverse heritages
and may benefit from supportive counseling to
help them clarify their feelings. Multiracial
children who have emotional or behavioral problems
may be referred for a psychiatric evaluation.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child
and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians
with at least five years of additional training
beyond medical school in general (adult) and
child and adolescent psychiatry. For more information
on their ”Facts for Families” educational
materials, call 1-800-333-7636.