Academic journal article Education

Race and Children: The Dynamics of Early Socialization

Academic journal article Education

Race and Children: The Dynamics of Early Socialization

Article excerpt

Introduction

Parents, teachers, and educational researchers have tried to understand how children develop cognitive and other skills. We do know that expectations and perceptions of parents and other significant others are important. Family structure plays an important role, as do such socialization institutions as education and the media. What parents and others do with their children is critical, as are the baby-sitting and preschool arrangements they make. In this paper we examine these interactions between children and their parents or other significant others.

Race is an important basis for understanding people's experiences in our society. Race affects virtually all aspects of life, ranging from differential rates of infant mortality (Eberstein, 1995) to education (Parrillo, 1994) to workplace experiences (Horton and Thomas, 1995) to experience as perpetrators and victims of crime (Perry, 1990) to family experiences (Taylor, 1994a) and to interactions between women and men (Aldridge, 1990). Specific interactions between race and socialization patterns have also been identified. We know, for example, that single black men and women are more likely than whites to be living with relatives, especially non-nuclear relatives. Family ties appear to be stronger among black women. Specifically, this research has demonstrated that black women contact mothers and siblings and socialize with relatives more often than do white women (Raley, 1995). The 1990 Census figures show that the poverty rate in the United States hit a twenty-year high. Adolescent mothers are the fastest growing and largest group to receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (Bane and Ellwood, 1986). As expected, both cognitive and behavioral development among both African American and Hispanic children are negatively correlated with poverty (Leadbeater and Bishop, 1994).

Both cognitive and behavioral development among children are influenced by parental beliefs and values as mediated through culture (Goodnow, 1988). Taylor (1994b) highlights the differences in family structure between black and white families and suggests that such differences will affect the socialization that children receive. Some of these differences relating to variations in cognitive stimulation have been observed between black and white mothers (Berlin, Brooks-Gunn, Spiker and Zaslow, 1995). Zinn (1994) discusses how the history of Hispanic culture affects the socialization experiences of Hispanic children. Within cultural groups, social status can also determine cognitive and behavioral development (Kohn, 1969). The socio-cultural context of child development in America reflects the varied ethnic traditions of its immigrant populations. Those immigrants from predominantly agrarian societies develop significantly different parenting models than do those from more industrialized societies (Werner, 1979). These models influence how parents understand and respond to the behavior of their children (Sameroff and Fell, 1985). Gutierrez, Sameroff, and Karrer (1988) compared Mexican-American families with Anglo-American families and found that Mexican-American mothers not only retain values and beliefs from their own culture but also took on values and beliefs of the American culture. The resulting parental models which developed were more complex and diverse than expected. The models among Mexican-American families were strongly related to social status (Gutierrez, 1990; Sameroff and Fell, 1985). Finally, bilingual children's verbal and nonverbal conceptual development is significantly influenced by these parenting models (Gonzalez, 1994).

This paper examines race and ethnicity differences in some of the socialization experiences of children three to nine years of age. We seek to test some of the previously suggested conclusions that race and ethnicity are related to the "quality" of children's socialization experiences. We explore how race and ethnicity are powerful aspects of socialization by examining differences among Hispanic, black, and white children on various experiences and characteristics. …

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