The Emotional and Social Roots of Prejudice
Ella, pretty and shy, had lost two fathers and was caught between valuing the middle class culture of the suburb where she went to school and the very different culture of her home neighborhood. The emotional and social conflicts she lived with prevented her from enjoying her own attractiveness, as Jan did. Jan lived in a family that, for religious reasons, chose to think simply. Whatever prejudices she had were, in part, socially caused, for her cognitive confusion seemed perpetuated by her family's rigid style of expressing their accepted beliefs. Meg, on the other hand, had suffered emotional damage from her parents' divorce. Her frustrated anger at them may have been displaced sometimes and expressed in the form of prejudice.
The stories of Ella, Jan, and Meg show how the three roots of childhood prejudice -- cognitive, social, and emotional -- overlap and influence each other. There is no separate part of personality that determines whether other ethnic groups will be favored or rejected. Just as the word "ethnic" may cover differences in race, origin, culture, language, beliefs, or religion, the word "prejudice" is a kind of shorthand for no one trait but, rather, a number of possible negative attitudes, judgments, and predispositions to behavior. This chapter will examine the emotional and social factors that either cause prejudice or keep a child from abandoning the normal, cognitively-caused prejudices of early life. We will see that, while children, especially young children, do not, as a rule, directly copy their parents' prejudices, parents have an enormous influence on the child's level of moral judgment and its implied degree of respect for people that affects prejudice.
The study of emotionally-caused prejudice has its roots in psychodynamic theory, which views prejudice as reactive, rather than directly copied from cultural and parental ethnic attitudes. Because emotion is
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Publication information: Book title: Changing Childhood Prejudice:The Caring Work of the Schools. Contributors: Miriam M. Davidson - Author, Florence H. Davidson - Author. Publisher: Bergin & Garvey. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 25.