- Gradually becoming aware of self as a separate being
- Beginning to absorb a cultural identity through daily caregiving, interactions, household smells, sounds, etc.
- Babbling a range of sounds and imitating intonation and sounds of home language
- Beginning to notice and respond to skin color cues (around 6 months)
NOTE: The stage/age characteristics described here are generalizations, based on the behavior of many children. A particular child will show a few, some, or many of the characteristics of his/her/their age and stage as they develop their racial/cultural identity and attitudes.
The Developmental Markers shown here will be integrated with the Four Core Goals of Anti-bias Parenting to provide Guidelines for books, resources, and activities tailored to each age group in the next section of this website.
- Continuing to develop awareness of self as separate individual.
- Learning to interact with others within the cultural rule system of their families. Paying close attention to “their” adults’ feelings and non-verbal messages.
- Curious about physical characteristics of self and others (skin color, hair texture, gender anatomy). May “match” people based on physical characteristics.
- Sometimes showing discomfort around unfamiliar people, including individuals with different skin color. May not have language to express or ask about aspects of difference that intrigue them.
- Beginning to vocalize words from his/her home language. By age two identifying self/others with words like “me”, ‘mine”, “you”.
- Speaking and continuing to develop home language.
- Becoming grounded in family’s cultural ways: language, rules about behavior, how emotions are expressed, gender norms.
- Identifying and matching people according to “racial” physical characteristics and groups, but often confused about complexities of group characteristics (i.e., people of different groups that have similar skin colors).
- Can learn that skin serves the same purpose for everyone, regardless of skin color, and appreciate that all colors are beautiful. Not yet ready to understand the concept of “melanin”.
- Not yet clear about gender and racial identity constancy throughout life.
- Curious and sometimes fearful about disabilities.
- Beginning to show awareness of economic class.
- Over-generalizing and making incorrect associations about differences based on limited experience and limited ways of processing information. May have their own explanations for differences observed among people.
- Absorbing societal stereotypes from people and from media about other groups and may show discomfort or fear. May tease or refuse to play with others because of skin color, language differences, or physical disabilities.
- Beginning to show evidence of social messages affecting feelings about self and/or group identity—i.e., evidence of beginnings of internalized superiority or internalized oppression.
- Aware of and exploring the meaning of the several aspects of self-identity and group identities (racial, cultural, gender) and the societal messages about them. Developing an understanding of gender and racial constancy throughout life.
- Interested in how people get skin color and can understand simple scientific explanations about skin color differences, such as melanin.
- Showing evidence of societal messages affecting how they feel about their self-identity and/or group identity, i.e., evidence of beginnings of internalized superiority or internalized oppression.
- May choose to play only with children of own gender and racial/cultural identities, but may also reject members of their own racial/cultural group.
- May use prejudicial insults and name-calling to show anger or aggression, knowing that these terms hurt.
- Enjoys exploring the similarities and differences in the home cultures of their peers.
- Can identify stereotypes.
- Developing critical thinking skills, and can engage in “social justice” activities on issues that directly touch them, in their classroom, school, or neighborhood.
- Establishing group identities and membership—often form groups to act within their own cultural rules and to reinforce sense of group identity. Able to consciously code-switch between home, community, and school cultures.
- Children of color aware of racism against own racial/cultural group. May show negative impact of internalized racism. Third grade is when many children “psychologically” drop out of school.
- See rise in name-calling based on racial, gender, class, disability, and sexual orientation identities. Show influence of dominant culture myths about class (being poor is the individual’s choice/fault; having money is a sign of superior abilities). However, they now have a greater capacity for empathy about the hurt name-calling causes.
- Can identify and critically think about interpersonal dynamics of racism, sexism, and classism, and understand the nature and harm of stereotyping.
- Can understand how individuals get their skin color.
- Like to learn about the history of their own people and communities.
- Role models of people active in anti-racism/social justice struggles are very important. Can engage in group activities to challenge individual and cultural forms of racism in their community.
- “After age 9, racial attitudes tend to stay constant unless the child experiences a life-changing event.” (Frances Aboud, Children and Prejudice, Basil Blackwell, NY, 1988)
Adapted from the Sophia Lyon Fahs Lecture given by Louise Derman-Sparks at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in 2012. Permission was granted by the UUA.
Kansas City Parade of Hearts
Dennis Stanton, artist
Rethinking Race in the Midwest
Our mission is to encourage families to rethink race and the role it plays in our segregated region. Using children’s literature, featuring diverse characters, we will support families with young children (birth-9) to start and strengthen early conversations about race and diversity.
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