Preventing Race-Based Preferences From Developing in Early Childhood
Human beings are not born racist; rather, they learn to be racist. Studies have shown that race-based preferences emerge between three and five years old, yet little work has been undertaken in behavioral and social science to investigate the individual, social and environmental variables that influence the development of these preferences. The Preempting Racism project seeks to uncover when and why young children acquire race-based preferences, and then pilot and test different approaches to prevent them from developing in the first place.
Beyond Conflict has partnered with researchers at developmental psychology labs at Yale, Penn, and New York University (NYU) to launch multiple longitudinal studies and measure the racial attitudes of hundreds of children from across the country. At the same time, our team is piloting several intervention programs to identify and refine promising ways to preempt the emergence of racial bias in young children. These pilot interventions are designed to be scalable, with an easy translation to parents and educators to ensure maximum impact and benefit.
The preliminary results of the longitudinal studies and initial pilot interventions show that:
- The ideal age range to intervene to preempt the development of racial biases in between 4- to 8-years-old
- Children who view interracial friendships as socially accepted show lower levels of racial biases, and this is especially true when they view interracial friendships as being valued by their parents
- Children’s understanding of the structural barriers that racial minority groups face in today’s society plays a nuanced role in their developing racial biases.
These findings reveal an opportunity to generate scalable interventions with the potential to preempt race-based preferences to develop in young children. Successful interventions could lead to targeted campaigns to counter the development of racial biases in young children. Additionally, when finalized the framework can be extended to explore what causes other types of discrimination, including on the basis of religion, ethnicity, gender, and age.
Participate in the Research and Contribute to Science
Research is underway at the Princeton and NYU Discoveries in Action (PANDA) lab which invites parents and children to participate in short, fun developmental studies from their computers. These studies explore the same concepts as in-person research; the only difference is that PANDA studies take place entirely online. It is a simple, easy-to-use online platform that allows families to learn more about children’s development while making an important contribution to science.
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