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Experts have long pointed to the need for white parents to have conversations that address racism directly with their children in order to reduce racial prejudice. But many parents fail to have this important conversation.

Northwestern University psychology researchers have now published the first study showing the immediate effectiveness of a guided discussion task in promoting parent-child communication about racial prejudice in white American families.

The task appears in Developmental Psychology.

The researchers developed a discussion guide to help parents have “color-aware” conversations with their children that clearly acknowledge the existence and history of racism and its continued presence.

According to the study, parents who had color-conscious conversations with their 8- to 12-year-olds saw a significant reduction in anti-Black prejudice, and so did their children. However, even in conversations in which parents made comments that downplayed the importance of race or shifted blame from white perpetrators of racism, the researchers found a reduction in prejudice.

“Many parents worry that talking to their children about racism could lead to prejudice in their children, and they also feel they don’t know how to do it,” corresponding author Sylvia Perry said “Our key finding, however, was that when parents used color language when discussing interpersonal racism, it was associated with a significant reduction in their child’s negative implicit biases toward black people.”

Perry is an associate professor of psychology and principal investigator of the Social Cognition and Intergroup Processes Laboratory in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.

Perry said two questions motivated the research. First, if White parents and their children participated in a guided discussion task about racism, would they have conversations of color? Second, if White parents and their children had conversations about color, would the children show a significant reduction in their anti-Black prejudices? ?

Guided discussion as a tool

Researchers recruited 84 self-described white parent-child pairs to participate in the study.

Parents were asked to initiate a conversation with their child after watching videos that showed interactions between a white child and a black child. The series of scenes involved overt bias, subtle bias or neutral interactions between children. Parents were provided with suggested discussion prompts such as, “Why did the white child do what he did?” and “How do you think the black child felt after it happened?” – which aims to encourage parents and children to report whether racial bias has occurred and to consider the negative effects of racism on black children.

Parents and children individually completed an implicit association test to measure their degree of anti-Black prejudice before and after the guided discussion task.

Results of the study

The researchers were surprised to find that when parents used colorblind language when discussing the videos with their children, for example, saying, “Black and white people are the same,” they still The children showed a decrease in their prejudices. The effects were only small.

Perry noted, however, that observed decreases occurred when parents and children participated in a guided racism discussion designed to reduce bias. While some families used color-blind language at some point during their conversations, most of these families also used colorful language. Overall, 92% of parents and 95% of children used colorful language during discussions.

After completion of the discussion task, children’s anti-Black prejudices decreased significantly. Children showed a moderate preference for White over Black individuals with an implicit bias score of 0.41 before the task. After the discussion task, the score was reduced to 0.16, indicating little or no bias. Parents’ anti-Black prejudices also decreased significantly, from 0.53 to 0.34, after the discussion task.

Addressing Subtle Bias

Because subtle forms of prejudice have negative effects on the mental and physical health of Black people, researchers say it’s a missed opportunity for parents to engage in conversations about only overt racism.

“We found particularly beneficial effects of parents’ language on their children’s anti-Black biases when they talked about subtle examples of racism,” said Deborah Wu, assistant professor of psychology at Stonehill College and co-author of the study. Were.” “Our findings suggest that it is particularly helpful to avoid defining racism when discussing specific forms of color, as well as when discussing subtle forms of racism. The likelihood of being dismissed by white individuals Is.”

The researchers found that parents who made it clear to their children that the white child’s racial bias was influencing the white child’s attitudes or behaviors toward the black child, such as feeling uncomfortable around black children. , their children were more likely to have decreased negativity. Prejudice against black people.

Bilateral influence

The researchers also looked at the effects of children on their parents’ attitudes. They found that when children made external attributions, such as saying that a child might be prejudiced because they learned it from their parents, their parents showed a greater reduction in anti-Black prejudice.

“Another important aspect of this study is that it shows the effectiveness of racism interventions at the family level to moderate. in both adults and children,” said Jamie L. Abid, an associate professor of psychological science at the University of Vermont and co-author of the study. Along with one’s child can be particularly eye-opening. and it can help them deal with the idea that their own child could potentially engage in the same racist behavior as the white children in the videos if they don’t take steps to prevent it. “

More information:
White parents’ racial socialization during a guided discussion predicted reductions in pro-White prejudice for White children. Developmental Psychology (2024). DOI: 10.1037/dev0001703

Reference: Study Finds Parent-Child-Guided Conversation Effective in Addressing Subtle Racism (2024, Feb 22) Accessed 22 Feb 2024 at https://phys.org/news/2024-02-parent- Retrieved from child-discussions-effective-subtle.html

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