Children become aware of negative stereotypes about their race or ethnic group in middle-to-late childhood, a new study shows, and that awareness can have an impact on the way they perform in school or interact with others.
For their study, published in the current issue of Child Development, researchers intensively studied more than 150 children between the ages of 5 and 11 in a suburban Chicago school district. They found that, as children learned of racial or ethnic stereotypes about their own heritage, they were more likely to see discriminatory intent in hypothetical interactions between white and black children. The stereotype-savvy black and Latino children were also more likely to perform poorly, in comparison with white students, on tests that they were told would measure their intellectual abilities in some way. The study also presents evidence to suggest that parents may unintentionally reinforce those tendencies when they talk to their children about racism in society.
A version of this article appeared in the November 18, 2009 edition of Education Week as Stereotype Awareness