Study shows racial stereotyping toward young children

September 13, 2018, Australian National University
Credit: US Department of Education, Flickr

New research from The Australian National University (ANU), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the University of Michigan have documented young children and youth of colour in the US face significant racial stereotyping from adults who work with them.

For the first time this national study has analysed stereotypes held by White adults who work or volunteer with across the US, examining their reported attitudes towards adults, teenagers and children from a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. This includes attitudes towards Black and Hispanic/Latinx groups, but also towards those from Native American, Asian and Arab backgrounds.

Lead author Associate Professor Naomi Priest of the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods said the study found high levels of negative racial stereotyping towards non-Whites of all ages among adults working or volunteering with children.

Highest levels of were found towards Blacks across all stereotypes measured. These attitudes were: being lazy, unintelligent, violent and having unhealthy habits.

Native American, and Hispanic/Latinx people were seen as similarly negative on several stereotypes. These were most pronounced towards adults, but seen even towards aged 0-8 years.

Black children were seen less negatively than Black adults, but were seen more negatively than children from other racial groups except for Native American and Hispanic/Latinx.

Young Black children aged 0-8 years were almost three times more likely to be rated as being lazy than White adults, with Native American and Hispanic/Latinx young children also more likely to be considered lazy than White adults.

Young Black children were more than twice as likely to be rated as unintelligent or violence-prone compared to White children of the same age, with young Hispanic/Latinx children also seen as more unintelligent or violence prone than White children.

Some of the strongest levels of negative stereotyping reported by White adults working with children were reported towards teenagers, with teen Black and Native Americans close to 10 times more likely to be considered lazy than White adults.

Black and Hispanic/Latinx teens were between one and a half to two times more likely to be considered violent prone and unintelligent than White adults and White teens.

Associate Professor Priest said "these findings are highly concerning given the strong scientific evidence that negative racial attitudes are associated with poorer quality care and services and with disparities in health, education and social outcomes.

"That these negative attitudes have been found towards even young children aged 0-8 among adults who work or volunteer with them has serious potential consequences for these children's outcomes throughout life," she said.

"Countering these negative stereotypes among adults who work with children, and protecting children from minority backgrounds from the potential impact of these attitudes, is an important strategy to address racial disparities."

This analysis was conducted by Dr. Naomi Priest during her time as a Visiting Scientist with co-author Professor David Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and uses national data collected by the University of Michigan's National Voices project.

"This study is a wake-up call for every professional group who works with children in the U.S.-doctors, teachers, police, child care workers, and others," said Professor Williams.

"It suggests that many professionals, with good intentions, may be treating America's most valuable possession, our little children, badly without even being aware of it."

The research will be published in a paper titled "Stereotyping across intersections of race and age: Racial stereotyping among White working with children" in the journal PLOS ONE.

Explore further: Children show implicit racial attitudes from a young age, research confirms

More information: Naomi Priest et al. Stereotyping across intersections of race and age: Racial stereotyping among White adults working with children, PLOS ONE (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201696

Related Stories

Prevalence of ASD estimated at 16.8 per 1,000 for 8-year-olds

April 30, 2018

(HealthDay)—The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was estimated at 16.8 per 1,000 children aged 8 years in 2014, according to research published online April 27 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ...

Recommended for you

In colliding galaxies, a pipsqueak shines bright

February 20, 2019

In the nearby Whirlpool galaxy and its companion galaxy, M51b, two supermassive black holes heat up and devour surrounding material. These two monsters should be the most luminous X-ray sources in sight, but a new study using ...

Research reveals why the zebra got its stripes

February 20, 2019

Why do zebras have stripes? A study published in PLOS ONE today takes us another step closer to answering this puzzling question and to understanding how stripes actually work.

When does one of the central ideas in economics work?

February 20, 2019

The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy ...

Correlated nucleons may solve 35-year-old mystery

February 20, 2019

A careful re-analysis of data taken at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has revealed a possible link between correlated protons and neutrons in the nucleus and a 35-year-old mystery. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2018
Among other things, note the emphasis only on attitudes whites, or Whites, have toward other races.
Nobody ever looks at attitudes other races or peoples have about whites!
Is it because everybody but whites is accepting and considerate? Nobody else forms prejudiced attitudes towards whites or any other races?
Or do the other groups know how to "play the game", pretend to be meek and kind, while harboring malignant intentions?
Note that, if you say everyone else is decent and friendly, that's stereotyping whites, that's bigotry against whites.
And it can be asked how someone defines things like "laziness" necessarily in children 0 years old. Children that old are sup[posed to be napping a lot! For "studies" like this, why not provide comparison videos of white and people of other races, to see if the assessments whites make are necessarily so wrong?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.