For Kids, Mom and Dad's Attitudes on Prejudice Rule

Adult words have more value than positive experiences for young: study
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2012 11:20 AM CDT
First graders took an adult's word on other kids at greater value than their own experience in a new study.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Where do kids get prejudiced ideas from? Adults—at least when the children are young. A new study found that when first-graders were told by an adult that another group of children was "mean," those first-graders in turn evaluated the other group as "mean"—even if they had a positive experience with the group. By third grade, adults' words had about the same weight as the kids' own experiences, and by fifth grade the two had completely flipped: Children at that point evaluated a group positively if they had a good experience with that group, even if an adult had spoken negatively of the group beforehand.

"Our work suggests that older children are going to be more influenced by their own experiences, so it's not enough for us to lecture to them about equality and diversity-related issues," a study researcher says in a statement. "We need to help create situations and environments that foster positive experiences among children from all backgrounds." Click for more from LiveScience on how the study was carried out.

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