ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - There's a body of research that suggests by the time kids start school they prefer kids who look most like themselves. How and why do those biases in favor of certain genders and races begin? How can parents support kids in a way that will widen their social group?
"If you don't look the same on the outside, it's okay, because you look the same on the inside," 6-year-old Mila Moglia said.
"We're clearly in a really specific moment in our country's history where issues around discrimination and prejudice, especially focused on race and racial injustice are really front and center," Yarrow Dunham, ED.D Dir. of Social Cognitive Development Lab said.
Dunham studies children and acceptance of racial and gender differences.
"Your children are actively trying to make sense of a really really complicated social world and they're taking a lot of cues from us and from the information we provide them," Dunham said.
Yarrow and his team say kids themselves also play an active role in choosing the information they consume. The researchers studied whether young children preferred information that favored the group with whom they identified.
Five and 6-year-olds were randomly given a yellow scarf or green scarf.
They were read two books. One book was written by someone who really liked the yellow group. The other book painted the green group in a favorable light. Then researchers asked which book they would like to hear.
"So merely by randomly assigning a kid to say the yellow group, if you then ask kids, which group do you like better? kids will prefer members of their own group,"Dunham said.
In fact, researchers say 80 percent of the kids chose to hear the story favoring their own group and after hearing that story they preferred their own group even more strongly.
Yarrow says parents should ensure their children have access to books, toys, games, and movies that feature a diverse group of people, and guide their kids in ways that support inclusion.
For parents looking for a good place to start, Common Sense Media lists books that promote diversity and inclusion on their website commonsensemedia.org.
This was a small study, conducted in a rural, predominantly white area. Research with a more diverse sampling is still needed.