New research suggests that young children can feel the sting of racial and ethnic stigmatization.
A recent academic study has found that children as young as second graders are aware of racial discrimination.
The research conducted by researchers at UCLA found that youth from a range of ethnic-minority backgrounds not only recognize “ethnicity-based stigmatization,” but feel more anxious about school as a result.
The study looked at 451 African-American, Chinese, Dominican and Russian second and fourth graders from New York City schools. The students ranged from 7 to 11 years old, and each participated in three individual interview sessions lasting approximately 40 minutes long.
"We found that differences in the young children's awareness of stigma were similar to differences among adults, with ethnic-minority children generally reporting more awareness than ethnic-majority children," said senior author and UCLA professor of psychiatry Andrew Fuligni."There were few differences by grade, suggesting that even second graders are sensitive to ethnic attitudes in society."
The researchers also found that ethnic-minority students had higher academic anxiety, which they attributed to their greater awareness of stigma. But in contrast to past research that showed that awareness of stigmatization is associated with lower interest in school, ethnic-minority students reported significantly higher interest.
The authors say intervention efforts can help decrease stigma.
"Programs aimed at decreasing students' perceptions of group stigma, such as providing community role models, could help keep students' academic anxiety in check," Fuligni said. "And school-based interventions that foster close connections among individuals at school may help students stay interested in learning."
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(Photo: Commercial Appeal /Landov)