By Janice Van Buren, Ph.D.
A study in which(1) children's comments about race were recorded by pre-school, day-care and elementary workers and (2) interviews with parents of children three to twelve years old demonstrates children's progress through stages of race awareness that parallel their cognitive development.
Infants and Toddlers
- Learn "what is me" and "what is not me."
- Sensitive to the feelings of the adults around them.
- Begin to mimic adult behavior.
- Recognize and explore physical differences at 2 years.
- Learn names of colors, and begin to apply names to skin color.
- Express curiosity about differences.
3 to 5 year olds
- Notice differences among people.
- Can classify and sort objects based on color and size.
- Have problems grouping multiple objects.
- Confused about the names of racial groups.
- Confused about the actual color of their skin.
- Question why two people with different skin tones can belong to the same racial group.
- Express interest in wanting to know how people got their color, hair texture, and eye shape.
- Believe skin color and other physical traits can change like other parts of their body that grow and change.
- Begin to prefer one race by age four.
- have limited, distorted, and inconsistent thinking which makes them susceptible to stereotypes and forming pre-prejudices.