Minority Parents' Perspectives on Racial Socialization and School Readiness in the Early Childhood Period

Published in: Academic Pediatrics, v. 15, no. 4, July-Aug. 2015, p. 405-411

Posted on RAND.org on January 08, 2015

by Ashaunta T. Anderson, Aurora Jackson, Loretta Jones, David P. Kennedy, Kenneth B. Wells, Paul J. Chung

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Research Questions

  1. How do minority parents help their children navigate issues of racism?
  2. What does racial socialization imply about school readiness?

OBJECTIVE: To describe how minority parents help their young children navigate issues of race and racism and discuss implications this racial socialization may have for school readiness. METHODS: Sixteen focus groups were conducted among 114 African American, English language-primary Latino, Spanish language-primary Latino, and Korean language-primary Korean parents of children ages 0 to 4 years old. Transcripts were coded for major themes and subsequently compared across the 4 language-ethnicity groups. Parents also shared demographic and parenting data by survey, from which group-specific proportions provide context for identified themes. RESULTS: In this sample, nearly half of surveyed parents had already talked to their young child about unfair treatment due to race. The proportion of such conversations ranged from one-fifth of Korean parents to two-thirds of Spanish language-primary parents. In focus groups, Korean parents reported fewer experiences with racism than African American and Latino parents. Within each language-ethnicity group, fewer fathers than mothers reported addressing race issues with their young children. All focus groups endorsed messages of cultural pride, preparation for bias, and a strong focus on the individual. The majority of parents viewed racial socialization as an important part of school readiness. CONCLUSIONS: Racial socialization was believed to be salient for school readiness, primarily practiced by mothers, and focused at the individual level. The smaller role of fathers and systems-based approaches represent opportunities for intervention. These results may inform the development of culturally tailored parenting interventions designed to decrease the race-based achievement gap and associated health disparities.

Key Findings

  • Half of parents of children ages 0-4 years had alerted their children to unfair treatment due to race.
  • Mothers were more likely than fathers to address racial issues.
  • Most parents viewed racial socialization as an important component of school readiness.

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