Background: Minorities' diminished returns (MDRs) refer to weaker effects of socioeconomic status (SES) indicators such as parental educational attainment and family income in generating tangible childhood outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities compared to the majority group, a pattern prevalent in the US. Our existing knowledge is minimal, however, about diminished returns of family SES on reducing exposure to childhood trauma.
Aim: To determine if there was a difference between non-Hispanic whites (NHW) and non-Hispanic blacks (NHB) in the effect of SES on exposure to childhood trauma among children ages 8-11 years old.
Materials and methods: In this cross-sectional study, we analyzed data from 4696 NHW or NHB American 8-11-year-old children who were participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. The independent variables were parental educational attainment and family income. The primary outcome was exposure to 1 or 2+ childhood traumas, measured by the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (K-SADS) semi-structured interview. Polynomial regression was used for data analysis.
Results: Parental education and family income had statistically significant protective (negative) effects on childhood trauma, indicating children from high income and highly educated families were exposed to a lower level of childhood trauma. However, race/ethnicity showed statistically significant interactions with parental education and family income on exposure to childhood trauma, indicating weaker protective effects of parental education and family income on reducing exposure to trauma for NHB compared to NHW children. Race-specific models showed protective effects of parental education and family income on exposure to childhood trauma for NHW but not NHB children.
Conclusion: The protective effects of parental education and family income against exposure to childhood trauma are systematically diminished for NHBs compared to NHWs. To minimize the racial/ethnic health gaps, diminished returns of parental education and family income should be addressed. There is a need for programs and interventions that equalize not only SES but also the marginal returns of SES for ethnic groups. Such efforts require addressing structural and societal barriers that hinder NHB families from translating their SES resources into tangible outcomes. There is a need for studies that can minimize MDRs for NHB families, such that SES can similarly secure tangible outcomes in the presence of SES resources.
Keywords: ethnicity; race; socioeconomic status; stress; stressful life events; trauma.