Black children don’t ask to be born into poverty, exposed to racism their whole lives, be hypersexualized and criminalized, or experience other forms of hardship. But that’s the reality for too many kids — and researchers say the high level of exposure to stress is causing damage to their brains. 

That’s the sobering finding discovered by a team at Harvard University’s McLean Hospital and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry

The researchers analyzed surveys and MRI brain scans of 7,350 white children and nearly 1,800 Black children, ages 9 and 10. They found that the Black kids were more likely to show changes in their brains linked to conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nathaniel G. Harnett, the study’s leader and director of the Neurobiology of Affective Traumatic Experiences Laboratory at McLean, said it’s clear that structural racism is having long-term psychological health impacts.

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