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Research Findings: How Parents Affect a Child’s Feelings About 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: Children's racial attitudes do not necessarily match their parents' attitudes.

  • In an analysis of different studies of Black children’s racial attitudes and parents reported parenting practices, young children were likely to have Eurocentric attitudes that matched societal norms. Older primary school children were also likely to have Eurocentric attitudes, unless parents specifically promoted Afrocentric cultural values (Spencer, 1983).
  • In a study looking at White mothers’ racial socialization practices and mother and child racial attitudes, it was found that the children’s racial attitudes did not match those of their mothers (with children having more pro-White attitudes than their mothers). Additionally, the mothers incorrectly predicted that their children did not have racial biases and the children also incorrectly predicted their mothers’ racial attitudes (Pahlke, Bigler, & Suizzo, 2012).

Finding: Many African American parents: help their children develop an understanding of pride in their race and group identity, help their children understand the significance of living in a world that is oppressive towards Black people, and/or deemphasize race but focus on other positive individual qualities.
(Lesane-Brown, 2006 for review.)

  • A correlational study found that when adolescents experience discrimination in school, parental racial socialization was a positive predictor of African American adolescents’ school success, feelings of belonging in school, and educational aspirations (Wang & Huguley, 2012).
  • In a study that focused on parental racial socialization and outcomes for young children, African American preschool-aged children who received strong parental racial socialization messages of African American culture, measured through parent reports of racial socialization and researchers’ observation of their home environment, had high problem-solving skills, greater amounts of factual knowledge, and lower reported behavior problems (Caughy et al., 2002).
  • However, it is important to note that though many African American parents and caregivers engage in racial socialization practices with their children, conversations that parents have with young children may differ from conversations with older children. For example, African American parents are more likely to engage in cultural socialization with young children but talk about racial discrimination with older children (Edwards, 2017 for review).

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