Christia Spears Brown

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:


Discrimination is remarkably complex. At its most simple, discrimination involves harmful actions toward others because of their membership in a particular group. Discriminatory behaviors can include a wide range of acts, ranging from social exclusion, being graded unfairly, verbal insults, and physical assault; and can occur in multiple domains, by peers, teachers, people in the community, and institutions. Further, individuals may experience discrimination as a result of their membership in a large number of social groups. For example, discrimination may be based on one’s gender, race, ethnicity, physical or mental abilities, weight, religion, country of birth, or socioeconomic status. This article will cover research on discrimination on the basis of race/ethnicity, gender, and immigration status that is perceived by both children and adolescents (as these are the most common within research). Although considerable research has looked at prejudice and factors that cause people to engage in discriminatory actions, research from the perspective of the targets of discrimination––particularly when those targets are children and adolescents––has only appeared since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Researching perceptions of discrimination is more challenging in children and adolescents than with adults. First, there are serious ethical concerns with children because of the sensitivity of the topic. As a result, unlike social psychology, most research with youth examines perceptions of naturally occurring discrimination using correlational or longitudinal research rather than experimental designs (in which discrimination is experimentally manipulated). Second, children are especially vulnerable to negative social forces as they develop their attitudes about school, themselves, and their place in the world. Thus, the focus of most research is less on whether children “accurately” perceived discrimination, but rather on the context, correlates, and consequences of those perceptions. This article will include works focused on the correlates of discrimination, namely racial/ethnic identities, the school context, and family socialization regarding discrimination. This article will also examine the psychological and academic consequences associated with perceptions of discrimination. Third, there are cognitive developmental constraints when conducting research with children, such that children are still developing in their understanding of discrimination. Thus, this article will include research that examines the developmental precursors to perceiving discrimination, namely learning and reasoning about ethnicity and the concept of discrimination.

Article.  9848 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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