Tasnim Begum and Joseph Calhoun

Representation Through Racial Socialization in Early Childhood

Authors: Tasnim Begum (psychology), Joseph Calhoun (psychology), Kimberly Stoke

Faculty mentor: Erika Bocknek


Racial socialization (RS) includes the processes by which children learn values and see themselves as a member of an ethnoracial group. Literature on RS primarily focuses on parents' messages and modeling while engaging in "the Talk" to affirm children's racial identity, teach cultural values, and prepare children for potential discriminatory encounters. In these conversations, parents highlight the four tenets of RS. The advantages of RS are well understood; however, less is known about the precursors to these practices in early childhood. As early as three months old, infants look for faces that match their primary caregiver's race, and by age two they feel more connected to those of the same ethnoracial background. Therefore, children's ethnoracial identity development begins early. The current study sought to provide a more in-depth investigation of the foundations of RS in early childhood. Following a phenomenological approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Black mothers of preschool-aged children (N=14) to amplify their experiences with RS and parenting. All interviews were theoretically coded followed by thematic analysis. A prominent theme that emerged was mothers' use of representation in explicit and implicit ways to promote racial identity. Mothers reported that selecting dolls, books, and television shows with main characters of the same racial background was a tool to discuss loving one's skin tone, hair texture, and physical features. Furthermore, mothers reported that representation is also a salient factor for school selection and readiness. These findings illustrate how parents use representation as a protective factor in parenting during early childhood.

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Tasnim Begum and and Joseph Calhoun: Representation Through Racial Socialization in Early Childhood

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