The proverb that I chose for the assignment sounds as following: “Children are not born with prejudices- they learn them”. The proverb has been a topic for discussion and empirical research for many years, which was one of the main reasons for choosing it. Personally, I completely agree with the proverb, and I am ready to prove the theory with both personal opinions and academic researches, that were specifically chosen for this paper.
Personal Opinion Regarding the Proverb
Children tend to mimic the behavior, habits, and communicational models from their caregivers, which consequently shape the child’s personal beliefs and character for their future life. Just like absorbing the habits of morning showers or praying before meals, kids learn assumptions and prejudice from parents or teachers, as a part of vicarious learning. At such a small age children learn without any particular awareness or critical judgment of the information’s meaning (Morelli, n.d.). As an instance, children observing parents making racist remarks or displaying discriminatory behavior towards people of a different race, accept it as a normal way of communication, which, in the result, form negative prejudice. As a consequence, prejudice related to race, ethnicity, sexuality, or else may create significant social conflicts, resulting in discrimination at academic institutions, social exclusion or bullying from those with biased behavior towards the minorities.
No child is born with already set values and beliefs; they are being formed as they grow up, by copying behavioral patterns of their closest people. Discriminating behavior is the result of acquired attitudes toward others displayed by peers, parents, and family, which develop at an early age, as young as three (Morelli, n.d.). However, I believe that everyone is born with a predisposition that makes our brain categorize people and spot differences among them. Parents’ responsibility is to teach children about those differences while implying to make judgments without regard to race or ethnicity. It is easier for a kid to adapt and accept such concepts, rather than for an adult whose beliefs and values are already developed. If intolerant and prejudice-based behavior is noticed among children timely, while their nature is not completely constructed, it is possible to alternate and re-assure the kid of proper behavior and attitudes.
My personal theory is based on an opinion, that prejudice among children are not formed based on their awareness about the diversity of people, but from the negative perception of it demonstrated by their society. Just like values and beliefs, prejudices are formed mainly through a range of associations, for example, a certain ethnicity may be identified with the crime, and other with poverty, particular sexualities may be considered good another bad or unnatural. If children hear similar comparisons often enough they start to believe in its verity and spread them among peers, creating an unsafe environment.
As children grow older they stick to the prejudice learned at a young age and comprehend it as normal behavior. Unconsciously, they might act out intolerant toward peers or older people, which will undoubtedly make others uncomfortable (Morelli, n.d.). Therefore, taking into consideration how fast children absorb information and behavioral patterns from the surrounding, parents must pay close attention to how they express their beliefs in the presence of younger kids. If caretakers identify any prejudiced behavior, it must be immediately dealt with and explained to kids appropriately. It is vital to teach the younger generation, that prejudicial beliefs and discriminatory behavior are not acceptable in modern society as prejudice must not define the self-worth of any children. A timely started the discussion with a child about race and discrimination will inevitably prevent biased behavior, and provide them with tools on how to properly react to such actions.
Summary of the Article The Interrelated Effects of Parents, Peers, Classrooms on Development of Prejudice Among Swedish Majority Adolescents
The article, published in the Developmental Psychology journal begins with a statement that prejudice threatens the balance of non-discriminatory societies, especially among teenagers. Recently, a dynamic increase in immigrants across Europe has been noticed. Such counties as Sweden, Germany, and France have 13-18% of the immigrant population, which is causing many cases of segregation and discrimination (Miklikowska et al., 2019). Therefore, the study perceives the discovery of how prejudices are formed and ways of reducing them as the main goal. The author’s analyses of numerous theories prove that the social attitudes and norms of children are the results of the impact of parents and peers, that start developing at an early age (Miklikowska et al., 2019). Moreover, schools also impact kids’ formation of prejudice, as some less diverse facilities may teach them to construct certain racist beliefs, when multiethnic schools expose children to diversity, which reduces the risk of discriminatory behavior.
The authors developed theories of racial and ethnic attitudes formation, based on the research of many scientists. They state that at adolescent age, people are most sensitive to developing ethnic identity, which commonly plays as a reflection of views and beliefs inside their close circles. Recent studies have discovered a decline in specific ethnic groups related to prejudice. They suggest: “while biological and cognitive processes might primarily drive attitudinal changes in childhood, adolescents’ attitudes depend more on the social contexts they are embedded in” (Miklikowska et al., 2019, p. 2452). Therefore, adolescents tend to copy the behavior from society more, rather than from their families.
Similarly, other theories believe that the social context of prejudice plays a more vital role than family. Kids, who spend most of their time at school, develop attitudes and behavioral patterns from observing their peers, and their ways of socialization. However, these theories do not exclude the impact of family values on the creation of children’s prejudice, the researchers only distinguish it as a separate type of influence, as they are the principal agent of kids’ socialization. Authors outline that children’s perception of prejudice is formed when they learn to categorize groups and associate particular ones with negative features (Miklikowska et al., 2019). Hearing phrases like “immigrant kids” automatically labels them in a child’s head, and creates a prejudice toward this group.
Therefore, all scholars agree that the formation of prejudice depends on parents’ and peers’ attitudes towards them. Schools also play a crucial role in the development of social attitudes among children, as homogeneous facilities are a cesspool of negative prejudice, whereas ethnically diverse schools reduce the possibility of contradictory attitudes towards minorities. Hence, many factors influence the creation of prejudice among children, which was proven by many theorists in this particular article.
Wide research of Swedish school children on the development of prejudice has shown that children, who have both prejudiced parents and friends, show a high level of negative attitudes and biases, compared to those with a less prejudiced environment. Moreover, a discovery was made proving that children, who attended diverse classrooms have less influence of their parent’s beliefs on the development of prejudice than youth from homogeneous schools (Miklikowska et al., 2019). Proposed theories regarding prejudice development among young children were reaffirmed with the help of a cross-sectional study. The article continues with recommendations for parents and school teachers on how to reduce prejudicial behavior among youth. This study is a powerful instrument on how to fight prejudice development among children, that must be used by parents and scholars.
Summary of the article A Chip Off the Old Block: Parents’ Subtle Ethnic Prejudice Predicts Children’s Implicit Prejudice
There is an increasing tendency in western societies of multiethnic character that becomes more relevant with each year. The subject of prejudice development among toddlers, that concerns discrimination is a topic that requires a more in-depth investigation. In the first year of life, infants show primary signs of discrimination connected with the distinction of people with similar ethnicity or spoken language (Pirchio et al., 2018). Such a trend continues to develop as a child grows; however, the social surrounding has a significant impact on the decline or increase of prejudice formation.
The authors distinct two types of prejudice: Automatic and explicit. Automatic prejudices are not intentional, and manifest themselves regardless of any resources, as opposed to explicit prejudice when a person is aware of its expression (Pirchio et al., 2018). While explicit attitudes are easy to alter and eliminate, implicit ones require more attention and effort to work with, especially among children. Therefore, the study’s main goal is to determine and investigate the roots of both types of prejudice development among children, with a focus on parents and peers.
The formation of children’s attitudes is strongly influenced by their social circles, adults in particular. Numerous studies highlight that children’s prejudice, in most cases, is closely interrelated and similar to the ones of their parents (Pirchio et al., 2018). Such indicators prove that caretakers play a significant role in the development of prejudice among their offspring, especially when their connection is strong. Many researchers suggest, that the parenting style is a determinant of prejudice and attitude formation, hence, the article focuses on determining the variety of such theories.
It is vital to mention the essentiality of distinction between explicit and implicit forms of prejudice, as they have different ways of development; however, both can be influenced by parental guidance. Explicit prejudices are a form of imitating the prejudicial behavior and attitudes of caretakers, whereas implicit ones are more closely related to the early experiences of socialization (Pirchio et al., 2018). Therefore, parenting is mostly responsible for the explicit transmission of prejudice, where social encounters are accountable for latent bias.
The study held by the authors was aimed at uncovering the influence of family on the development of implicit and explicit prejudice, and the role of age on the creation of biased behavior. Individual testing of 318 children was conducted to gain the most accurate results (Pirchio et al., 2018). As a result, the theories of parental influence were proven and a direct link between children’s implicit prejudice and family expression of such behavior was discovered. However, explicit prejudices were found to be less related to the caretaker’s blatant prejudice. Another finding was based on age, in which biases show a strong influence on children; for instance, implicit prejudices show a constant tendency at the age of 3-9, while explicit are shown at 6-7 years old (Pirchio et al., 2018). Overall, the article makes a significant contribution to the research about the development of prejudicial behavior among children.
Concluding, both studies that were found, confirm the accuracy of the proverb “Children aren’t Born with Prejudices – they Learn them”. The articles offer fundamental theories and scientific evidence of the statement. Some of the shortcomings that were noticed while researching the social psychological literature are that comparatively small amounts of relevant studies are existent, concerning the topic of prejudice development among children. However, the articles that were found are of great validity and offer empirical analyses and research on the topic, which provided essential information for the assignment.
Miklikowska, M., Bohman, A., & Titzmann, P. F. (2019). Driven by context? The interrelated effects of parents, peers, classrooms on development of prejudice among Swedish majority adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 55(11), 2451–2463. Web.
Morelli, A. (n.d.). Prejudice – child development & parenting: Middle (8-11). Grace Point. 2020. Web.
Pirchio, S., Passiatore, Y., Panno, A., Maricchiolo, F., & Carrus, G. (2018). A chip off the old block: Parents’ subtle ethnic prejudice predicts children’s implicit prejudice. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. Web.