Research Findings: Children Notice Race

by P.R.I.D.E. Team

The following is part of a series detailing research findings compiled by the P.R.I.D.E. Team. 
For more information, please visit our research page. Click here to view cited references.

Finding: Young children notice race, and make decisions based on race.

  • In a study of 3-month old White infants, the infants looked significantly longer at images of White individuals than they did of African, Middle-Eastern, and Asian Individuals (Kelly et al., 2005)
  • A number of early childhood racial attitude measures, including the Clarks’ doll study, show that young children internalize racial societal messages; that is, White is better or the norm (Clark & Clark, 1947) and across races this pro-White bias is most prominent in preschool aged children (Quintana, 1998 for review).
  • Between the ages of five and six, children of color can correctly identify their own race (York, 2016). By seven, children of color “demonstrate more attachment to their own racial group”, but this does not mean that children of color have negative attitudes towards people of other racial groups (York, 2016, p. 61). Also during this age range, children begin to understand the permanence of the (social category) of race (Quintana, 1998 for review).

Finding: Black children can have a White bias and at the same time feel good about themselves.

  • When Black children were given both a racial attitude measure and a self-concept measure (in which they completed items based on a picture of themselves) – pro-White bias was not significantly correlated with Black children’s attitudes about themselves. (Spencer, 1984).

Finding: It is beneficial for African American children to feel good about their race.

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