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How does prejudice impact social groupings in our youth? Our current understanding of cognitive development in regards to racial perception and self-identity paint an interesting picture of how children interpret race from the time they first begin to perceive differences between themselves and their peers to the time they begin to understand the social dimensions of race in society. This research proposal aims to closely investigate the evolving ways in which a child’s self-perception of themselves as the subject of identity-based prejudices influences their choices of playmates when forming friend circles within their school environment. Starting in multiple first-grade classrooms and following each classroom’s student body over the course of 5 years through fifth grade, students will be interviewed based on a modified Perceptions of Racism in Children and Youth test to gauge each participant’s place on a rating scale for self-perceived experiences with prejudice in their daily lives. These results will be compared against yearly self-reports of friendships within the classroom to test the hypothesis that children with high ratings of self-perceived prejudice will gravitate towards social circles of similarly high-rated students with increased significance as their cognitive understanding of race and prejudice evolves. The model predicts these effects will be significantly correlated and indicate an increased effect over the five-year timespan of the experiment. These results are anticipated to provide insight into creating future models for understanding the intersection of children’s social dynamics and racial identities, and might form the basis of future interventions meant to integrate diverse students in a classroom setting.
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Flack, William T., "Children, Prejudice, and Social Grouping: A Proposal on the Development of Bias and Racial Recognition in Children’s Friend Groupings" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 378.