Blog / The Dangers of Discrimination at home

The Dangers of Discrimination at home

28.02.2024 | Dr. Krithika

The most remarkable periods of anyone's life will undoubtedly be our growing up years spanning from our childhood to beautifully growing to become an adolescent. We all have memories of our youth and adolescence, especially of our home and the warm relationship we share with our parents etched in our being forever. For example, the joy I derived from going to my grandmother's place every weekend, visiting the beach frequently with my parents, and making sandcastles with the mud are fond memories that will remain in me for a lifetime! 
Nurturing and kind parents with positive early years relationships with peer groups help build a positive self-image and emotional well-being in children. Children carry this positivity into adulthood and have better adjustment and decision-making skills. Children and Adolescents are impressionable. The types of negative occurrences in their lives leave a deep scar in their minds regarding how they view their world and how they cope with emotions like anxiety and stress. Discrimination and prejudice of any sort lead to a lot of self-doubts, pain, and low self-esteem.  
Discrimination can be called the unfair and unjust treatment of children and adolescents based on gender, sexuality, academic performance, skills, skin color, appearance, age, disability.  
A parent may put the child through direct discrimination to hurt the child/adolescent and treat them differently through words or actions.  
Indirect discrimination is more subtle and may sometimes be unintentional. Certain rules put forth in-home affect the child's way of life.  
Harassment is when a child/ adolescent's dignity is violated in any form, creating a toxic environment for them. These direct and sometimes subtle forms of discrimination and prejudice break the fabric of the home and impair the child's interaction with their peers and society. 
Discrimination has been normalized in homes as parents feel that strict rules and certain norms make their children better individuals. Parents may have seen their parents adopt an authoritarian and regressive way of parenting. This style transfers across generations, affecting equality and relationships, leading to dysfunctional and abusive households. 
Some significant forms of discrimination at home are -  

Gender Discrimination: A girl child can be discriminated against when her parents or family favors her brother more and provides more resources and freedom to them. This form of discrimination can range from hurtful statements like, "As you are a girl, we cannot provide you many resources" to insulting words like " You should have never been born to us as you are a girl." Such words and perspectives deeply affect the girl child.  

Better opportunities, sending the son to a better school, and restricting all movements and dreams of their daughter for fear of society or bias can alter a girl's child life and future opportunities. A boy child or adolescent male also faces extreme pressure of constantly suppressing their emotions, never crying despite the pain, and various other beliefs affecting their mental health. The boy child, as a result, grows into an indifferent or emotionally unavailable adult strictly following the masculine ways of living. 

Academic Performance: Parents from a very young age stress their children over their academic performance. They push them to constantly over-perform and be made to do activities in which they are not interested. Other forms of intelligence where some children may be good at music, creative skills, writing are primarily neglected and sometimes mocked as parents never believe in alternative education or different career pathways. This leads to stress, depression, and low self-esteem among adolescents. This is a crucial phase in terms of their education which determines their career through adulthood. 
Skin color and body type: There is a particular obsession in our country with a fair skin tone which leads to discrimination from parents. Parents constantly stress children over an increase or decrease in weight, leading to a lot of prejudice and bias that affects a child's socio-cultural understanding. 
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: When parents feel shameful or are hateful towards a child's Gender Identity or Sexual orientation, it shakes the very foundation of a child's freedom of expression, perception of their life, an overwhelming feeling of pain, and neglect. 
Disability: Children living with some form of disability have overprotective parents, which can have a counterproductive effect, making the child feel discriminated against and feel burdened. 
Menstrual taboos: Menstruators of the adolescent age often face discrimination from their parents as many cultures and societies consider people in the menstrual phase impure and menstrual blood considered dirty. Hence, they are shunned, leading to ignorance, negligence, and neglect from their parents. 
Age-related discrimination: Parents tend to favor their eldest child or youngest child leading to neglect and discrimination of their other children. 
Pressure regarding success: Success in all activities of a child's life is a fundamental rule that a parent envisions for their children. This can lead to anxiety and stress in the mind of the child or adolescent when they are not able to attain the pinnacle of success. 
Sexual Health: Parents not providing information on sexual health, respect, consent, and relationships lead to unwanted complications which scar an adolescent's understanding of sexual health and reproduction.     

There are certain forms of discrimination that parents enforce on children, which ingrains certain biases inside a child or adolescent's mind against other people of their age, which have a lasting impact on their understanding of the society at large -  

Religion, caste, and culture: Forcing your child to prescribe to the faith, caste superiority, or culture you follow and constantly teaching them to hate people of other children is deeply damaging in developing positive and empathetic attitudes to humans of all faith and ideology. 
Race and Ethnicity: Notions of Race, Superiority, and Ethnicity are pushed into children’s psyche by parents. This leads to a deep fissure in the social fabric of our country and divides the younger generation.  
Poverty and Class: Poverty and class differences are among the chief causes of discrimination that parents tend to portray. Children tend to consciously and unconsciously imbibe and perpetuate it through adulthood. 
Sexual harassment and bias: Parents perpetuating harmful stereotypes regarding gender and survivors of sexual harassment tend to induce many problematic notions in children and adolescents growing to become insensitive citizens. 

Mental Health and Discrimination 
Discrimination leads to a lot of complications in the mental health of the child or adolescent. The children and adolescents that face discrimination may have these perspectives: 

Low self-worth and esteem 
Struggle to reach their fullest potential 
Feels powerless and vulnerable 
Have lesser goals and desires 
Impact their identity, talent, and social relationships 
Prone to harassment, bullying from peers 

Practicing Equality at Home 

Children and Adolescents should be constantly encouraged by parents to understand their rights and be well informed about how they can challenge discrimination in their own homes and society. 
Promoting equality and diversity in homes by practicing equality irrespective of gender, caste, or religious divide. 
Parents can improve their relationships with children by helping them develop positive notions about life, accept failures gracefully, and understand the importance of pursuing goals and dreams without fear and self-doubt. 

Childhood and Adolescence experiences serve an essential role in determining an individual's adult ideologies, perspectives, and behaviors. The promotion of well-being is vital during a child's growing years. It will have a positive and long-lasting impact on an individual's physical and mental health. 
If you or somebody you know wants to learn more about healthy parenting, consider reaching our ‘Support’ and ‘Engage’ verticals for affordable and inclusive help!   
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