School Counselors’ Perceptions of Biracial Children: A Pilot Study

School Counselors’ Perceptions of Biracial Children: A Pilot Study

Professional School Counseling
American School Counselor Association
December 2002
page 120-129

Henry L. Harris, Associate Professor and Chair of Department of Counseling
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Biracial children represent a growing segment of America’s increasingly diverse population. According to Kalish (1995), data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) showed between 1978 and 1992, the number of biracial children born in the United States increased more than 50%, “rising from about 63,700 to almost 133,200” (p. 1). During the same period, biracial births grew from 2.1% to 3.9% of all births (Kalish). Jamison (1999) suggested the number of biracial individuals at between 2 million and 5 million, and noted this is a significant underestimation. Past societal guidelines and restrictions have contributed to this underestimation because, in many situations, biracial children were simply identified with the parent of color. According to the 2000 Census report, the most recent numbers indicate that people of two or more races made up 2.4 % (6,826,228) of the national population, and 42% (2,856,886) of them were under the age of 18 (U.S. Bureau of Census, 2001). In this article, a biracial individual is defined as someone having biological parents from two different racial or ethnic groups (Winn & Priest, 1993).

The research on the unique issues biracial children encounter has produced mixed results. Some studies found biracial children were more likely to experience higher degrees of problems associated with racial identity development, social marginality, isolation, sexuality conflicts, career dreams, and academic and behavioral concerns (Brandell, 1988; Gibbs, 1987; Gibbs & Moskowitz-Sweet, 1991; Herring, 1992; Teicher, 1968; Winn & Priest, 1993). However, other investigations yielded more positive results discovering biracial individuals overall were assertive, independent, and emotionally secure and creative individuals with a positive self concept (Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jackson, & Harris, 1993; Poussaint, 1984; Tizard & Phoenix, 1995).

Historically, biracial individuals have been analyzed and judged from biological and sociocultural perspectives (Nakashima, 1992). Originally, the biological perspective characterized individuals from interracial unions as mentally, physically, and morally weak beings and because of their perceived genetic inferiority, they faced insurmountable social, emotional, and psychological problems (Krause, 1941; Provine, 1973). The sociocultural perspective supported the belief that biracial people were social and cultural misfits, incapable of fitting in or gaining acceptance in any racial group, destined to lead a life of loneliness and confusion. The ultimate goal behind both perspectives was racial division, which socially and legally discouraged Caucasians from marrying and/or having children with people of color (Nakashima). For example, in 1945, more than half of the states had active laws banning interracial marriages. Twenty-one years later, 19 of those states still had such laws on the books. It was not until 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Loving v. Virginia, that states could not legally prohibit interracial marriages (Parker, 1999). Needless to say, the different forms of past social and legal discrimination against interracial marriages have also influenced children of such marriages in a negative manner (Wardle, 1991)…

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