African American Families as a
Context for Racial Socialization
Stephanie I. Coard and Robert M. Sellers
The socialization of children is the primary responsibility of families, with a general goal being to make children familiar with social roles and prescribed behavior. It is also through the process of socialization that children learn the rules, skills, and attitudes of, and gain specific knowledge about, their family and ethnic culture. For families of color, part of this process is preparing children to recognize their position within the larger social structure. Over the past several years there has been increased interest in how African American1 parents shape children's understanding of their position in an environment that traditionally has been incompatible with realizing positive group identity (i.e., significance of racism and discrimination). How do parents shape their children's learning about their own race and ethnicity? How do they do so within the context of racism and discrimination? Evidence has emerged regarding how African American families attempt to prepare, buffer, and insulate their children and foster a positive and functional group identity. A review of this evidence and its limitations, suggestions for the future study of racial socialization, and policy implications are the foci of this chapter.
Although all families struggle with the challenges of raising children, doing so is particularly challenging for families of color—and especially African American families, in which family serves an additional critical function, given the context of race. That is, African America