Developing ethnic identities in middle childhood
This thesis reports an investigation into the development of ethnic identity during middle
childhood. It commences with a literature review on ethnic identification, attitudes and
interactions and their dominant theories. It is argued that ethnic identity development is
simultaneously cognitive and social and relates to cognitive changes, schemas and social
relationships. This research combines different methodologies to explore the multifaceted
nature of its development.
The report of empirical work begins with an ethnography into ethnic interactions. Two
critical themes are that children tended to play more with same-ethnic (ingroup) peers
and expected these others to play together. This theme is examined in two experiments.
84 white, Asian and black children, aged 5,6-7, and 8-9 years, rated their own and white,
Asian and black others' (,targets') liking for toys and foods. Ethnocentric inference (that
ethnic ingroup members would like things similar to oneself) was found at 6-7 years.
Verbal justifications from 8-9-year-olds indicate more sophisticated expectations about
A conceptual and methodological amalgamation of the last two phases was undertaken in
three final studies. 220 7-year-old white and Asian children in same- or different-ethnic
dyads discussed their preference for white and Asian targets. They also discussed targets'
preferences for them and each other as pairs. Different-ethnic dyads had more difficulty
resolving differences since each partner preferred an ingroup target. Same-ethnic dyads
were more likely to select an ingroup target, pair ingroup targets together, and share their
choices from the outset. Asian-dyads were more likely to reason by ethnicityIt is concluded that this investigation demonstrates that in middle childhood children
prefer, identify and interact more with same-ethnic members. These processes are
augmented by an emerging recognition that others sharing one's ethnicity also share
deeper attributes. However, the relationship between identity components remains
unclear and could be illuminated by further research