Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Children Of Immigrants Form Ethnic Identity At Early Age

September 25, 2007
Brown University
Children of first-generation immigrants develop their ethnic identity at an earlier age than previous research has shown, according to a new longitudinal study. Additionally, a child's positive sense of ethnic identity is associated with the desire to socialize with children of various racial and ethnic backgrounds.

A study of more than 400 children of first-generation immigrants is among the first longitudinal studies to demonstrate that one’s ethnic identity forms prior to adolescence. Furthermore, the three-year study found that a child’s positive sense of ethnic identity is associated with the desire to socialize with children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Cynthia Garcia Coll, professor of education, and Amy Marks, both affiliated with Brown University’s Center for the Study of Human Development, conducted the research with colleagues from Howard University and University of Illinois–Chicago. Their findings are published in The International Journal of Behavioral Development.

The sample included two groups of children in first and fourth grades from first-generation Cambodian, Dominican and Portuguese families in Providence and East Providence, R.I. Researchers assessed the children’s emerging ethnic identities through a label selection procedure that involved the children selecting labels that described themselves.

Categories included labels of nationality (i.e., Portuguese, Dominican); hyphenated (i.e., Portuguese-American); panethnic (i.e., Latino, Asian); racial (white or black); and ethno-linguistic (i.e., Spanish, English, Khmer). Each child was also asked a series of questions about their degree of ethnic pride, the centrality of their ethnic identity, and which label makes them the happiest.

Results demonstrate that second-generation children in three very different ethnic groups showed a robust awareness of their ethnic heritage and identified with being both part of their parents’ culture of origin, as well as being American.

Other findings include:

  • Children in all three groups reported similar levels of ethnic identity “centrality,” and all reported positive feelings of pride regarding being a member of their ethnic group.
  • Overall, older children demonstrated a greater amount of ethnic identification and exploration, indicated by a greater amount of label selection and higher degree of ethnic pride.
  • Children displayed a very high degree of accuracy in selecting labels; fewer than 3 percent of labels selected by children were incorrect.

“This research indicates these children are actively constructing this part of their identities, learning, and choosing from the environments they are part of,” said Garcia Coll, the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor of Education, Psychology and Pediatrics at Brown. “As adults we can’t adopt a color-blind posture, but should support them in these important psychological tasks.”

During years two and three of the study, children were asked about their preferences for socializing with children of their own and other ethnicities and racial groups. Displaying sets of photographs of white, black, Asian, and Latino groups of children, interviewers asked how comfortable the child was playing with and socializing with each group. Researchers measured each child’s social preference for the “ingroup” and a social preference for the “outgroup.”

Researchers found:

  • For all three ethnic groups, “ingroup” social preference was positively correlated with “outgroup” social preference, demonstrating the positive connection between these two social processes during middle childhood. In other words, explained Garcia Coll, having a strong ethnic identity is not associated with prejudices against other groups, as some past scholars have feared.
  • For all children, older age was associated with greater preferences to play with children of other ethnic groups.

“What we found at this early age is that children want to play with peers from their own ethnic backgrounds and peers from other backgrounds as well,” said Marks, adjunct assistant professor of human development at Brown’s Center for the Study of Human Development. “Importantly, the better children feel about their own ethnic identities, the more they want to play with others, regardless of ethnicity.”

Marks continued, “This has implications for understanding how to foster children’s social skills and friendships in today’s increasingly multicultural classroom environments. Today, one in five schoolchildren are from immigrant families, and that proportion is growing. Parents and teachers should support children in forming strong, positive cultural identities while encouraging children’s curiosities for interethnic group contact and friendships.”

This research was funded the Mittlemann Family Directorship at the Center, the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Children Of Immigrants Form Ethnic Identity At Early Age." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070924104616.htm>.
Brown University. (2007, September 25). Children Of Immigrants Form Ethnic Identity At Early Age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070924104616.htm
Brown University. "Children Of Immigrants Form Ethnic Identity At Early Age." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070924104616.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This

More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins