A study undertaken by the University of Michigan has revealed that young white pre-schoolers believe their race can change over time and they can effectively “grow up to be black.”
Steven Roberts, the author of the study, claimed that although children might be aware of other races, those who do not fully understand what race is believe that their race can change over time.
In an experiment conducted by Roberts and his colleague Susan Gelmen, researchers examined whether children believed their race was stable or whether they thought it could change over time.
The experiment included 74 children and 28 adults and involved asking the children trying to match a child of certain color to the adult they would grow up to be.
The results differed between both races and ages, with children above the age of 7 able to detect the results correctly, whilst children aged 5-6 could not.
However, children aged 5-6 of a racial minority correctly matched the child to its corresponding parent.
“These data suggest that beliefs about racial stability vary by age and race, and that at an early age, children do not have strong beliefs about race. They don’t even believe that race is stable,” Roberts said.
“Because of this, white 5- to 6-year-olds may be less likely to use race as a way to discriminate against other children when selecting who to play with, for example.”
Roberts says this phenomenon could be due to children of racial minorities being more aware of the implications of racial differences and diversity.