Race and Racial Biases in Early Childhood Education Classrooms

Project: Research project

Project Details


Starting as early as the preschool years, children begin displaying anti-Black biases,1–6 and Black children are targeted by discrimination from peers.7,8 Being the target of racial discrimination has myriad negative consequences for Black children, including negative mental and physical health,9,10 internalizing and externalizing behaviors,11 and school underperformance.10,12 Despite the prevalence of children’s racial biases, adults—especially white adults—avoid discussing race with children.13,14 Avoiding race with children is a missed opportunity for addressing children’s racial biases when they are first developing and are most malleable.15–17 In prior work, I found that one reason white parents avoid discussing race with white children is because they are unaware of children’s proclivity for expressing racial bias.14,18 Less is known about how other adults, including early childhood educators (ECE), approach race with children. It is possible—because teachers have extensive experience with many young children and because teachers observe children’s interactions with other children—that teachers would be more aware of children’s biases. Alternatively, teachers may underestimate children’s biases because they are similarly enmeshed in a society with strong “colorblind” norms that lead other adults to avoid race.13,19,20 Supporting this alternative hypothesis, in my pilot interviews with ECE teachers (N=24) and in recent ethnographic research with (primarily, but not exclusively, white) teachers,21–23 most teachers indicated that they do not address race in the classroom because it is irrelevant for young children. In order to evaluate teachers’ awareness of children’s anti-Black biases, we need to assess these biases. Although extant research employs several different measures in the laboratory to assess children’s racial biases, questions remain about how effective laboratory measures are for capturing children’s racial biases and about which measures are most sensitive to stable individual differences in children’s biases. In the present proposal, I investigate preschool children’s anti-Black biases (Aim 1), ECE teachers’ awareness of children’s biases and whether teachers’ awareness drives their motivation to regulate children’s biases (Aim 2), and ECE teachers’ approaches to addressing race and racial biases in the classroom (Aim 3). Black children will not participate in this research as anti-Black bias has a significantly different meaning when it involves derogating one’s own race. Aim 1 will evaluate children’s anti-Black biases with an emphasis on identifying measures that capture stable individual differences in children’s race-related attitudes and behaviors. To this end, we will evaluate test-retest reliability and predictive validity of measures of children’s racial bias. Understanding these psychometric properties is critical for evaluating the accuracy of teachers’ knowledge about children’s racial biases, because without good assessments, we do not have a clear marker of the reality of children’s racial biases. Aim 2 will evaluate teachers’ awareness of and motivation to address children’s racial biases. Children will complete the best measures from Aim 1. Teachers will predict children’s performance on each measure and report their motivation to address race in their classroom. To evaluate teachers’ awareness, I will compare teachers’ predictions to children’s actual scores. Building on my research with parents18 and on my pilot work with teachers, I predict that teachers, like parents, will underestimate c
Effective start/end date9/25/229/24/23


  • National Institutes of Health (NOT SPECIFIED)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.