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Parent's ethnic-racial socialization (ERS) practices among Black children with disabilities

Black families of children with disabilities face additional stress and difficulties because of their multiple marginalized statuses, particularly within the intersection between racism and ableism. These parents and caregivers may be tasked with teaching and conveying messages to their children about how to navigate social settings, like school, as a Black child with a disability. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2018), among students ages 3 through 21 served in special education, less than one-fifth are Black/African American (17.7 percent), but Black/African American students with disabilities account for more than one third (36.6 percent) of individuals who experienced disciplinary removal.  

Ethnic-racial socialization (ERS) practices have been found to mitigate the effects of such discrimination on children’s development. They are defined as verbal and nonverbal racial communication between families of color and their children about cultural heritage and pride, preparing youth for racial bias, and promoting healthy distrust of the dominant racial/ethnic group. ERS practices promote academic engagement and achievement and serve as a protective factor among Black youth amid racist discrimination. Yet, little is known about what these practices may look like for Black children with disabilities as ERS practices have typically been studied among able-bodied children.

The aims of the proposed, mixed-methods study are to explore:

  • What types of ERS practices, and how frequent, do Black/African American parents/caregivers engage in with their children?
  • What is the relation between parents/caregivers’ ERS practices and children’s academic engagement, school disciplinary, and mental health outcomes?
  • What are the purposes and goals of Black/African American parents/caregivers engaging in ERS practices among their children with disabilities?
  • What are some challenges that arise for Black parents/caregivers who communicate ERS practices to their children with disabilities?  

Black/African American families of children (ages 7-12) with disabilities will be recruited—using purposive sampling—from North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

Ultimately, findings from this study seek to serve as a resource to educators, researchers, and policy makers who work with or on behalf of Black families and their young children with disabilities to aid them in developing best practices that are rooted in anti-racism, anti-bias, and equity.


Funding Agency:  

American Psychological Foundation (APF)

Funding Period:  

10/01/2023 to 09/30/2024

Award Amount:  



Noreen M. Yazejian, Principal Investigator
Nicole A. Telfer, Postdoctoral Scholar
Paige Bowden, Account Manager