Black Kids Form Identity Through Race; Opposite for White Children

Trice Edney, Florida Courier, January 5, 2012

Black children in the same age group tend to form their identity more strongly by the color of their skin than a shared language, according to a new study, while the opposite was true for White children.

A study published in the November issue of Developmental Science and conducted by University of Chicago researchers Katherine Kinzler and Jacelyn Dautel presented some preliminary findings regarding how young children identify with others.

According to a report in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the study cites four experiments, each designed to provide a specific piece of information and control for some variables. Experiments 1, 2 and 4 used children ages 5 to 6, while experiment 3 used children ages 9 to 10.

Language vs. race

Experiments 1, 2, and 3 used White children and experiment 4 used Black children. In all the experiments, the children were shown a child and adults and asked, “Which adult does this child grow up to be?”

In experiments 1 and 2, the children picked the adult that spoke the same language as the child in the test, though it was not a racial match. In experiments 3 and 4, the children picked the adult that was a racial match, though they were not a language match to the child in the test.

“The difference between European American and African American children of the same age highlights the potential role of experience in facilitating children’s reasoning about the stability of different social categories,” the researchers wrote.


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  • Anonymous

    For the first time in recorded history the black kids outsmarted the white kids on a test. I have to wonder where the children were located; if the white kids had been in the South would the results have been different?

  • I don’t think the white study subjects aren’t thinking about race, even if they’re not thinking about it overtly.  It just might be that the methodology of this study lent itself to race being presumed as self-evident for the white study subjects and the photos of whites used.  Or, maybe the white students were using language as a proxy for race.

  • Ah, so it’s the black people who are inherently racist.  Now everything makes sense.

    • svyatoslavigorevich

      No.  Blacks are a small minority among a racially distinct majority.  It’s inevitable that race would be bound up in their core identity.

      It’s easy to be “anti-racist” when you’re in the majority.

    • svyatoslavigorevich

      Judging by the replies, I doubt many folks here have given any thought to what it’s like being a small minority surrounded by people smarter and more industrious than you.  Whites put people on the moon, Blacks couldn’t make it far past the mud hut.  Even without the slavery issue, it’s inevitable that a Black minority among a vastly more capable and wealthy White population is a recipe for Social Identity Theory run wild.

  • BJ

    Of course White children do not identify with their own race. They have been dumbed down on purpose and their parents, schools, media and churches have drummed into their mush brains that being  White is evil and to even notice one’s race is racist., (if one is White only, of course). They have been taught that they are no better than any other race and that God “loves” us all in the same way, that every race has good and bad and to even notice that blacks or “hispanics” commit more crimes than Whites ever dreamed of doing, is totally unacceptable. In other words, they believe in the lies.

    • Anonymous

      I do not think the 5 year olds were brainwashed; it is likely a more primal response. Babies prefer individuals of their own race because instinctually they know those that are similar are more likely to offer protection on account of shared genes.

      The black kids are probably  more attuned to danger which made them more sensitive to visual differences. Plus language does not have as much meaning for blacks.

  • Anonymous

    Black American children are taught from the beginning that they are black and they should be proud of that fact.  The black parent (can’t forget that 70%+ out of wedlock birth rate) also tells the child wild fairy tales about Africa being a great civilization before the white man stole everything from them.

    This is all before they are 5 years old.

    Virtually no White children are told they are White, much less to be proud of it. 

    Race is not a polite topic in the average White American household.  But it should be.

  • Anonymous

    I was going to write some quip about the poisonous doctrine of racial egalitarian universalism having finally so destroyed white children’s ability to reason, on racial matters at least,  that they’re now bested by black kids, but maybe it’s a maturity thing. Five and six year-olds seem old enough to recognize faces-these are kindergartners and they have friends, but maybe not. 

  • Anonymous

    White kids are more savvy than you think. They know the answers expected of them, and they know the consequences for giving the wrong answer. The white kids will spout the platitude they know the teacher wants to hear, and then they will quickly forget it.

  • Anonymous

    This may be more of “pattern recognation”, a ability to look beyond the obvious and see a pattern.  The obvious would be skin color, but knowing the languages don’t match would eliminate the “who do they belong too by race” in the younger group.   This shows intelligence and or survival instints.  The older age group would reflect cultural changes, young children (if not taught to avoid a race) are not afraid and are just anwering a logical question.  They only used white children for the older group, kind of makes you wonder what results they where going for.

  • Phd291

    It should be noted that Kinsler had previously done a similar study, in which White children were shown two pictures, one of a White child, the other of a black child, and asked which of the two they would prefer to have as a friend.  They choose the White child.  The second experiment used the same pictures, but the White child’s picture paired with a foreign accent, and the black child’s with a native accent.   In this case, the children preferred the black child with the native accent.  The third experiment paired a child’s face with a distorted version of that face; the non-distorted face was preferred, but in the fourth experiment, when the distorted face was paired with a native accent, and the normal face with a foreign accent, the children choose the distorted face.    This indicates that language is more important for very young children in defining in-group/out-group status, and, as the 3rd and 4th experiments demonstrate, it isn’t about race, per se, but about the relative importance of verbal vs. visual cues to young children.

  • Anonymous

    Who are they kidding? White children are not allowed to have an identity, much less a racial one. Watch this video, and see what White children are being told. I hope the link still works, because it is quite shocking. This coming from a White teacher no less.

  • Anonymous

    Good observation. If gender had been changed instead of race would the children have responded the same way? Probably.

  • Anonymous

    This testing technique assumes the black and white kids were both speaking English.  I doubt this.

    The black kids were most likely speaking a near incomprehensible ghetto jive.  Had the blacks been  speaking clear and proper English the white kids likely would have related to them without difficulty. 

  • Bardon Kaldian

    This experiment is far from unambiguous. Something more refined should be
    tested on white & black children in Cuba, Brazil, Mexico (Mestizos and Native Indian language speakers), Colombia, …..

  • Anonymous

    While most comments about the article are about the substance of the research, we found the naming and labeling of most interest.  The article talked about “white” and “black.”  None of that capital letter for one and not the other.

    We had “African American” and “European American,” both terms emphasizing similarly the continent of origin and the continent of residence.

    So far as naming and labeling are concerned the publishers were respectful and followed the rule of parity in naming…something that is very unusual in this day and age.