The appearance of Donald Trump on the campaign trail, and now as president, has unquestionably been a disruptive force in the United States. Voting age Trump supporters see that as a good thing while a solid majority of adult Americans view it with great dismay and anxiety at best. The result, of course, has been a rapid deepening and solidification of the great cultural/political chasm between those two factions.
As problematic as that situation has been, and is for most adults in this country, it might well be that young people are the ones most deeply and negatively affected. Parents, educators and child mental health experts are increasingly in agreement, saying that the effect president Donald Trump is having on kids is already severe and shows signs of worsening.
Sadly, some school-age children are even emulating the President. This has resulted in an increase in youthful bullying and hate speech. The Southern Poverty Law Center surveyed 2,000 K-12 teachers in order to study this developing issue and discovered that the ascendancy of Donald Trump has had a “profound negative effect on children and classrooms, especially in schools with high populations of minority children.” This phenomenon now even has it’s own name: “The Trump Effect.”
It seems that Mr. Trump’s demeanor, words, actions and rallies are giving license for susceptible kids to act out their worst impulses. These youngsters watch intolerance, bullying, name calling and inflammatory speech erupting from the President of the United States and think that’s okay to emulate. And even when corrected by caring adults, they say, “The President did/said that! Why can’t I?”
In March of 2017, Huffington Post published an article by Dr. Gene Beresin, Executive Director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital titled, “Trump’s Behaviors: A Child Psychiatrists’ Perspective.” In that article, Dr. Beresin declined to assess the President’s mental health status, but what he did was to create a fictional 16-year-old male patient, based upon his years of psychiatric practice, who exhibits some of Donald Trump’s traits. Here they are:
- Publicly bullies other in a hurtful way
- Hangs out with bad kids who manipulate him
- Has to be the center of attention
- Violates sexual boundaries and denies wrongdoing
- Takes no responsibility for his misbehavior
- Defies rules and authority impulsively
- If slighted . . . seeks revenge and makes everyone scared of retaliation
Dr. Beresin states that these traits are somewhat normal for a preschooler but in a teenager, are extremely problematic. And if they are problematic in a teenager, they certainly are problematic for the President of the United States who then also serves as a role model for America’s youth.
To see how this all plays out in real life, consider the following incidents taken from three different states:
- California: A white middle school student said to a black classmate: “Now that Trump won, you’re going back to Africa where you belong.”
- Kentucky: An Hispanic third-grade girl was chased around the classroom by a white boy who yelled, “Build the wall! Build the wall.”
- Florida: White high school students, after a football game, shouted, “Donald Trump! Donald Trump!” at the students from the opposing side who happened to be African American.
Minority students of color have mainly been the targets of such incidents. The result for them has been a rise in fear, the development of physical problems, and reduced ability to function in school. The question then arises as to the effect these situations might also be having on non- participating white students who are witnessing the type of events just described.
It may be too soon in the Trump administration to know the full extent of the president’s behavior on our young people. But as the 2017-2018 school year rolls on, perhaps we will get a clearer picture of what the future holds, not just for our kids, but eventually for our entire society as our youngsters mature into adults.
7 Ways Donald Trump Is Damaging Our Children (Popsugar Entertainment 2:07)
How Trump’s rhetoric is affecting students (CNN Money 4:49)
Kids React to Trump before the election (FBE 9:14)
The Trump effect is hitting children (Huff Post 2:10)
Trump signs kids hat, then throws it (The Young Turks 2:13)
Countering the Trump Effect: Tips for Schools (Dignity in Schools.org)
Don’t Shield Your Kids From Donald Trump (Salon.com)
How Educational Children’s Books Are Explaining President Trump (The New Yorker.com)
Kids are quoting Trump to bully their classmates? (Buzzfeed.com)
The ‘Trump Effect’ is contaminating our kids — and could resonate for years (The Washington Post.com)
The Trump Effect Part 1 (Psychology Today.com)
Trump’s Behavior: A Child Psychiatrist’s Perspective (Huffington Post.com)
Trump’s War on Children (Children’s Defense.Org)
Why child anxiety is on the rise in Trump’s America (Newsweek.com)