Challenges face mixed raced children and young people in the UK today

  • 26/02/2014

Media Release

Embargoed until Wednesday 26th February 2014 at 00:01am

Challenges face mixed raced children and young people in the UK today

A new report published today by leading children's charity the National Children's Bureau highlights the challenges that children and young people from mixed race backgrounds face as the country's fastest growing minority ethnic group.

'Mixed Experiences - growing up mixed race: mental health and wellbeing'draws on first-hand accounts of people of mixed race background setting out their experiences growing up both in the UK and elsewhere. Whilst it warns against labelling them as having problems, the accounts show that mixed race children and young people do experience greater risks to their mental health as they struggle to develop an identity for themselves which they find comfortable.

The report points out that young people of mixed race are:

  • significantly over represented in the youth justice system, the child protection system and the looked after system.[i]
  • potentially at greater risk of experiencing mental health problems as a result of poor self-esteem, hostile and rejecting relationships, and the experience of discrimination from both black and white peers.

Furthermore :

  • Schools often do not understand their backgrounds with teachers having  unrealistic expectations which, in some cases, contribute  to poor educational outcomes 
  • Overall, public services are not sensitive to mixed race children and need to develop approaches to working with them in ways that are effective, that promote access and that respond to their needs.

The reportoffers practitioners an insight into the lives of children and young people from mixed ethnic backgrounds, and opens the door on the racism, discrimination and identity confusion that can characterise their childhoods. It highlights how resilience can be built by strong and supportive families, despite the adversity that mixed race children can face.

The findings are published at a time when the number of UK residents claiming mixed ethnicity is rising sharply. The 2011 census revealed that the UK's ethnic-minority population has grown from 9% to 14% since 2001: and shows that the numbers of mixed race young people have increased substantially.

Co-author, Cathy Street said:'The mixed race group's diversity does not allow for a one-size-fits-all assessment of needs, and this is the challenge for practitioners. To develop support that is appropriate, relevant and robust, professionals working with children and young people of mixed race need to be aware of the particular risks to mental health and emotional well-being that may be present in the lives of these young people. We hope this report will fill a gap in the research of mixed race wellbeing and contribute to a reduction of the turmoil and struggle so often referred to in accounts of growing up with a mixed race background.'


Co-author Dinah Morley said:'The research on which the book is based has shown both the potential risks to the mental health of mixed race young people over and above those faced by all children, and also how resilience can develop, often in the face of adversity, when families were strong and supportive.  Whilst adolescent experiences were often particularly difficult, with the mixed race young person frequently being the 'out-grouper', by young adulthood many of these issues had been overcome, with more or less all the research participants feeling happy with their mixedness and proud to be who they are.  Practitioners need to be alert to these specific difficulties and, where possible, provide support to minimise distress which, once experienced, is likely to have an enduring effect.'

'Mixed Experiences - growing up mixed race: mental health and wellbeing' by Dinah Morley and Cathy Street is available from:


For more information please contact the National Children's Bureau's media office on 0207 843 6045 / 47 or email  For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.


Notes to editors

About the National Children's Bureau (NCB)
The National Children's Bureau is a leading charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. We work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues. For more information visit



[i] For example, while making up around 3.5 per cent of the population as a whole, mixed race children and young people account for:

  • 7.4 per cent of children on the child protection register;
  • 8 per cent of children in care.