Study provides insight into children’s race and gender identities

Study provides insight into children’s race and gender identities

UW Today
University of Washington

Deborah Bach

Children’s knowledge and use of race and gender labels have been well-explored by researchers, but how kids think about their own identities in those contexts, especially before adolescence, is less clear.

A new study from the University of Washington provides a rare glimpse into how children perceive their social identities in middle childhood. The research found that children age 7 to 12 rate gender as more important than race — and that their perceptions of both are woven together with personal and societal influences.

“Kids are thinking about race and gender, and not just in terms of being able to identify with these social categories, but also what they mean and why they matter,” said lead author Leoandra Onnie Rogers, a former postdoctoral fellow at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) who is now an assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University.

Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS and co-author on the paper, said, “Children are bombarded by messages about race, gender and social stereotypes. These implicit and explicit messages rapidly influence their self-concepts and aspirations.

“We were able to catch a glimpse of how culture influences children at a tender time in their lives. Kids talk about race and gender in different ways as early as age 7.”…

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