Supporting cross-racial friendships between kids: the lessons of "prejudice mindsets"
Young kids in racially diverse settings form cross racial friendships easily. But when they get to be around 10 years old, a great many of them start to self-segregate by race. Whether in the classroom or lunchroom, they segregate into racial groups reflecting the social divisions of the larger society.
A common assumption about why this happens has been that kids give up on friendships across race at that age due to an increase in racial bias. But a growing number of studies show that prejudice in kids actually remains stable or slightly declines during middle and late childhood. As such, elevated racial bias is unlikely to be the reason so many kids leave cross-race friendships as early tweens.
New research suggests that “prejudice mindsets,” specifically whether kids believe that racial biases in themselves and in people across racial groups are permanent or changeable, have a big influence on whether kids are willing to engage cross-racially. By 10, many children have gotten the message that racial bias is permanent, that you’re either “racist or not.” Harboring the belief that people can’t change, they hesitate to be in situations where they might be exposed as “racist” – exposed to themselves and others - or the target of racism.
These findings suggest particular strategies to support cross racial friendships among kids into elementary school and beyond. Watch the conversation about this exciting research and about what it means for how parents and educators can support kids. We're excited to be joined for this conversation by MarYam Hamedani and Kristin Pauker!
We will post the transcript and links from this conversation within the week.
- SPARQ Toolkits - SPARQtools are digital toolkits that translate research into user-friendly formats that practitioners and educators can use to sparq psychological, behavioral, and societal change. MarYam mentioned the SPARQ RaceWorks ToolKit during this conversation.
- What Happens When Kids Learn That Racism Can't Be Overcome, Time Magagine, by Evan Apfelbaum & Kristin Pauker
- Believing that prejudice can change increases children’s interest in interracial interactions, Developmental Science, 2022, Kristin Pauker, Even Apfelbaum, Carol Dweck and Jennifer Eberhardt
- Black and White Friends Want to Talk About Race, But It’s Hard, Greater Good, Melissa De Witte