Evidence That It Works
In a study, a diverse group of children between 10 and 12 years old were randomly assigned to hear a storybook about students putting on a play that presented prejudiced attitudes as either fixed or malleable. In the fixed attitudes story, the message was that prejudice is permanent and does not usually change. In the malleable attitudes story, the message was that prejudice is not permanent and can be changed. In the next part of the study, the children had live video chats with a child they didn’t know from another school. Ultimately, white children who heard the story that prejudice is malleable and talked with non-white kids had increased interest in future cross-race interactions, and their partners—who hadn’t received a lesson about prejudice—did, too.
Why Does It Matter?
Although prejudice begins in early childhood, it peaks in middle childhood, around five to seven years old. Cross-race friendships start to become less stable in later childhood. But there are ways to help children question their own biases, overcome their prejudices about others, and make friends with people who are different from them.
When kids make friends across differences, it can improve their attitudes toward other social groups and reduce their anxiety when interacting with people of other races. Finding ways early on in development to help children foster ties across differences is important for the future of a compassionate and equitable pluralistic society. Furthermore, some research suggests that cross-race friendships are beneficial to childrens’ social and academic adjustment in diverse classrooms.