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Racism and Resilience Among Black Autistic Children and Caregivers

Persistent, and quite pervasive, racial disparities have been found between Black, autistic children and their white, autistic peers. These disparities range from notable inequities in the timeliness of diagnosis to receipt of substandard services to their under-representation in research studies. While key disparities have been documented, there is a need for increased attention on potential underlying drivers of these disparities that are rooted in the Black experience. We know from existing research on Black health and wellness that racism is linked to some poorer physical and mental health outcomes. This project will examine the impact of racism and resulting racial trauma on the mental health outcomes of Black parents of autistic children (ages 3 -9) as well as the downstream consequences that parental racial trauma has on child behavior and development.

Using a mixed method, cross-sectional study design, an economically heterogeneous sample of 300 Black parents / caregivers of autistic children in the states of NC and PA will be recruited. And a community-partnered participatory framework to tell the whole story of Black risk and resilience by focusing on both racial trauma as well as Black cultural capital and assets will be used.

The specific aims of this project are to:

  1. understand the impact of racism (i.e., everyday racism and racialized trauma) on the well-being (i.e., quality of life, stress, caregiver strain) of Black parents of autistic children;
  2. examine whether parents’ experiences with racialized trauma adversely affects child behaviors and development;
  3. determine cultural capital factors that moderate the impact on racism on parental well-being; and
  4. using moderated moderation analysis, explore whether cultural capital factors and parental well-being both moderate the impact of racism on child behaviors and development.

The project further seeks to understand how Black parents of autistic children support their children’s racial pride and acceptance.

This project team is ideally suited to tackling the complex topics and intersectional identities associated with race and disability. It brings relevant and culturally informed content and methodological expertise. Further, this work is being conducted in partnership with the Color of Autism organization, a national organization designed to support and empower Black families. Through this work, we will gain key insight and knowledge of how the Black experience impacts rearing an autistic child of color to provide more specificity and direction for future tailored intervention approaches. This research is likely to exert a significant and immediate impact on the field because it examines both the risk and resilience of a historically marginalized and excluded group.


Funding Agency:  

NIH National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Funding Period:  

04/01/2024 to 02/28/2029

Award Amount:  



Brian A. Boyd, Principal Investigator
Iheoma U. Iruka, Co-principal Investigator
Danielle J. Allen, Investigator