Monday, February 26, 2007

Q&A: How How Kids Learn Prejudices, Stereotypes

Q&A: How Kids Learn Prejudices, Stereotypes - Newsweek Health - By Anna Kuchment Updated: 1:05 p.m. ET Feb 26, 2007 - "How do children respond to stereotypes about race, religion and gender? A child-development expert looks at contradictions in kids’ behavior."

This is an interesting bit of research. Some of the conclusions are, like, Duh. But the relationship between groups and stereotypes is something worth knowing about. Especially the way the group dynamics evolve as the kids got older.

Anyone who can remember high school and/or has kids has plenty of exposure to this. It's just that most of us didn't grok the reality of the dynamics as opposed to the perceived dynamics. My personal experience is one that is probably not as uncommon as we might hope.

When I was very young, preschool & kindergarten, I moved 5 times before I was 5 years old. This included 2 trips over the Atlantic from Germany to the US and back. After that I spent the early elementary years in Germany and Italy. I also had rheumatic fever when I was 5 so for many, many years I was quite sickly. Due to being on the outside of every possibly group I was shunned by pretty much everyone. By the time I was in 4th or 5th grade we were now in the US. From that time until I got to high school I was the kid everyone picked on. I got the crap beat out of me on a near daily basis. It was so bad that sometimes the teachers would treat me this way. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to social assimilation. Needless to say this attributed to me having an inferiority complex the size of Gibraltar.

High school was when I started to climb out of this deep hole. We'd moved back to Germany and I started playing football. In the four years I went from 58th string JV to starting Varsity Center. I still got the picked on thing in high school but as I went through the years it became less and less. By my senior year I was part of the championship winning football team and was practically an athlete/coach in Track and Field. Got my first real girlfriend (but that's another story) and generally was considered "in." I wasn't in the "popular" click but they would at least acknowledge me.

In my psudo-university career I was in the "we sleep all day and smoke dope as much as possible while occasionally going out with friends" crowd. I was very popular in this group.

After University my work years were up and down but I had many friends in the different places we lived. We moved 10 times between '80 and '88. I was also in a rock band for most of this time so there were the perks from that. In '88 we came to the States and over the next few years I got married, advanced in my career field, bought a house, had a kid and all that domestic stuff.

Throughout this journey the social groups I've been involved with have changed and morphed and I slopped in and out of different ones at different times in my life. Now I have a young son and I have been conscious of his social group standing. He's doing far better than I ever did but I want to keep an eye on him. Being an only child of divorced parents living with a crippled father has made him a little bit spoiled. I don't want him to grow up as a bad seed. With the knowledge that this study gives I have a better chance to help him avoid becoming a serial killer.

I hope.

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