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Ethn Racial Stud. 2011 Apr;34(4):662-682.

The Defining Moment: Children's Conceptualization of Race and Experiences with Racial Discrimination.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition Sciences and Clinical Nutrition Research Center, Tuskegee University, Birmingham, AL.


This paper examines whether children of marginalized racial/ethnic groups have an awareness of race at earlier ages than youth from non-marginalized groups, documents their experiences with racial discrimination, and utilizes a modified racism-related stress model to explore the relationship between perceived racial discrimination and self-esteem. Data were collected for non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic children aged 7 - 12 using face-to-face interviews (n = 175). The concept of race was measured by assessing whether children could define race, if not a standard definition was provided. Racial discrimination was measured using the Williams Every-day-Discrimination Scale, self-esteem was measured using the Rosenberg Scale, and ethnic identity was assessed using the Multi-group Ethnic Identity Measure. Non-Hispanic black children were able to define race more accurately, but overall, Hispanic children encountered more racial discrimination, with frequent reports of ethnic slurs. Additionally, after accounting for ethnic identity, perceived racial discrimination remained a salient stressor that contributed to low self-esteem.

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