Awareness of Ethnicity Based Stigma Starts Young

Researchers from UCLA have determined that children as young as second graders recognize stigma based on their ethnicity, and feel more anxious based on the stigma they receive. I could have told you the same thing based on my experiences with my own daughter who hasn’t even reached the second grade yet. She’s had anxiety about being different since pre-school, and I’m hoping it doesn’t get any worse. I’ve already written about her anxiety around her different sounding Chinese last name.

The study does add some additional interesting information. For example, the perception of stigma felt by the younger kids mirrors the perception of stigma felt by ethnic adults as well. That is if you’re a minority, you tend to notice the stigmatization happening and have it negatively affect you more than if you were not a racial minority. In addition to noticing the stigma more, the children also had higher academic anxiety, which the researchers associated with the anxiety around ethnic stigma.

It’s bad news as any parent of a stigmatized child can tell you. Anything that reduces your child’s desire to attend school at such a young age can be devastating. We got lucky in that we were planning on moving our daughter to a new school for first grade anyway, so she didn’t have to go back to her previous school where the kids taunted her about her last name.

If you’re wondering what the answer is, maybe it’s obvious, as 8Asians recently pointed out a study that showed that integrated cafeterias produced less racism in schools. It’s not just about having a diverse student body, but making sure the actual table you sat at during lunch had a diverse representation. When we segregate ourselves, as usually happens, that’s when racism occurs.

As for my daughter, she’s now going to public school, which interestingly enough is much more diverse than the private school she went to for kindergarten. I’m hoping this has a positive impact on her view towards school, and towards other kids of different ethnicities.

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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