Awareness of racism affects how children do socially and academically

Nov 13, 2009

Most children actively notice and think about race. A new study has found that children develop an awareness about racial stereotypes early, and that those biases can be damaging.

The study, by researchers at Rush University and Yale University, appears in the November/December 2009 issue of the journal .

This study looked at more than 120 elementary school from an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse area of the United States. Children were asked questions to determine their ability to understand another person's stereotypical beliefs as well as their own comprehension of broadly held stereotypes. They were also asked about their own experiences with discrimination. In addition, the children's parents completed questionnaires asking about their parenting.

Between ages 5 and 11, the researchers found, children become aware that many people believe stereotypes, including stereotypes about academic ability (for example, how intelligent certain racial and ethnic groups are). When children become aware of these types of bias about their own racial or ethnic group, it can affect how they respond to everyday situations, ranging from interacting with others to taking tests. For example, African American and Latino youths who were aware of broadly held stereotypes about their groups performed poorly on a standardized test, confirming the negative in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"These results have important implications for social policy," according to Clark McKown, assistant professor of pediatrics and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, who led the study. "Specifically, they suggest the need for and comprehensive programs to reduce stereotypes and their consequences early in children's school careers."

More information: Child Development, Vol. 80, Issue 6, Developmental Antecedents and Social and Academic Consequences of Stereotype-Consciousness in Middle Childhood by McKown, C (Rush University Medical Center), and Strambler, MJ (Yale University Medical Center).

Source: Society for Research in Child Development (news : web)

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Crucialitis
5 / 5 (1) Nov 13, 2009
It's a real problem because it's hard to explain to children the complexities of discrimination. How do you go into social constructs and history lessons without making a child's eyes glaze over?
gregme
5 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2009
Well, if it is awareness, then there should be an example of where this awareness did not exist and therefore black and hispanic children would perform just as good as white children.

But since I've never heard of any such place, or any such study, I have to wonder if this is more of a rationalization of an observed fact rather than a true study.

Are the different opinions leading to the different results, or are children observing different results and then forming an opinion based on those observations?

Without a control group for the study, either conclusion would be valid.
Carney
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2009
There's an increasingly crushing mountain of evidence of racial differences in IQ. It may be shouted down, banned, or ignored for political reasons, but science is science.

The universal pretense, once sincere but motivated now purely by politics and fear, that all human populations -- despite having evolved in genetic isolation for tens of thousands of years in wildly different settings and climes with wildly different selection pressures -- have ended up with precisely the same level of general intelligence, down to multiple decimal places, is believed by nearly no one anymore, but the pantomine of looking for the racist boogeyman under the bed who causes black children all over the globe regardless of income or political power to underperform relative to whites drags on, rather like late Brezhnev era claims of the glories of Soviet prosperity.

No one dared challenge it and the few who did were crushed. In the end however the lies collapsed as all do.
MK019
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2009
The recent review by Harvard's James J Lee in Personality and Individual Differences
Volume 48, Issue 2, January 2010, Pages 247-255, showed these stereotype theories to be extremely dubious at best.

Papers like this provide more insight based on hard data.

Ankney, C. D. (2009). Whole-brain size and general mental ability: A review. International Journal of Neuroscience, 119, 691-731
MK019
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2009
Another problem with this theory is that the B-W gap can be measured at age 3. [see Rushton, J.P. and Jensen, A.R. (2005). Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, 235-294.]

Also, reaction time measures which correlate with g show the same patterns with East Asians performing better on average.
MK019
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2009
You really need to read the review cited above, but one piece of evidence that undermines the stereotype view is the reverse digit span memoroy test. This is more mentally demanding and it is on this that the gap is greater. On a straight digit span memory test the gap is lower.