International Journal of Early Childhood

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 67–84 | Cite as

Ethnic Prejudice in Young Children in Indonesia: Intervention Attempts Using Multicultural Friendship Stories

  • Christia Spears Brown
  • Michelle Tam
  • Frances Aboud
Original Article
  • 72 Downloads

Abstract

Ethnic prejudice, even among very young children, is a universal occurrence. Yet, little research has been conducted on this issue outside of Westernized contexts. The current study evaluated a storybook intervention in Indonesia, a country of historically high racial tensions, designed to reduce young children’s ethnic bias regarding out-groups of high-status (i.e., Chinese) and low-status (i.e., Papuan). In Study 1, 138 children, aged from 4 to 7 years, participated and included 87 children in an intervention group. The children were read two stories about cross-ethnic friendships over 2 days. Children’s attitudes were evaluated before and after the storybook reading using the Multi-response Racial Attitude measure and a social distance measure. Analyses indicated minimal to no effectiveness of the intervention. These findings were replicated in Study 2 with 20 children who received an enhanced intervention procedure by being read five different stories about cross-ethnic friendships, each book read two times over the course of 5 weeks, followed by discussions about the messages in the stories. Again, there was no reduction in racial bias. The combined lack of prejudice reduction across Study 1 and Study 2 emphasized how strong racial bias for lowest status, ethnic out-groups develops from an early age and that these prejudices are difficult to change, warranting greater attention in early childhood educational research.

Keywords

Prejudice Storybook intervention Multicultural Ethnic bias Racial bias Early childhood 

Résumé

Le préjugé ethnique, même chez de très jeunes enfants, est universellement présent. Cette question a néanmoins suscité très peu de recherches en dehors de contextes occidentalisés. La présente étude a évalué, en Indonésie, pays dont l’histoire est marquée de fortes tensions raciales, une intervention au moyen de livres d’histoires conçue pour réduire chez de jeunes enfants le biais ethnique envers des groupes externes de statut élevé (c.-à-d. chinois) et de statut faible (c.-à-d. papous). L’étude 1 comprenait 138 enfants âgés de 4 à 7 ans, dont 87 dans un groupe d’intervention. Deux histoires sur des amitiés interethniques étaient lues aux enfants pendant deux jours,. Les attitudes des enfants étaient évaluées avant et après la lecture des livres d’histoires au moyen de la mesure de l’attitude raciale à réponse multiple (MRA, Multi-Response Racial Attitude), ainsi que d’une mesure de distance sociale. Les analyses révèlent une efficacité de l’intervention de minimale à nulle. Ces résultats se sont répétés dans l’étude 2 où 20 enfants ont suivi une procédure d’intervention renforcée par la lecture de cinq différents récits d’amitiés interethniques, chaque livre étant lu deux fois sur une période de cinq semaines, et suivi de discussions sur les messages de ces histoires. Une fois de plus, le biais racial n’était pas diminué. L’absence de réduction des préjugés tant dans l’étude 1 que dans l’étude 2 souligne la force du biais racial envers les groupes ethniques externes au statut le plus faible, son développement dès le jeune âge, et la difficulté de changer de tels préjugés, justifiant ainsi que la recherche en éducation de la petite enfance y accorde une plus grande attention.

Resumen

Aun entre los más pequeños, los prejuicios étnicos son de incidencia universal. Sin embargo, son muy pocos los estudios que se han hecho sobre el tema fuera del ámbito cultural occidentalizado. El presente estudio evaluó la intervención de un libro de cuentos en Indonesia, un país con una historia de elevada tensión racial. Los relatos fueron diseñados con el propósito de reducir los prejuicios étnicos en niños pequeños con respecto a grupos excluidos de posición social elevada (el grupo chino) y de posición social baja (el grupo papú). En el Estudio 1 participaron 138 niños de 4 a 7 años de edad y se incluyeron 87 niños en un grupo de intervención. A lo largo de dos días se les leyeron a los niños 2 relatos sobre amistades inter-étnicas. Usando el método para medir Respuestas Múltiples Sobre Actitudes Raciales (MRA, por su sigla en inglés) y la medición de distancia social, se evaluó la actitud de los niños antes y después de la lectura de los cuentos. Los análisis indicaron que la intervención había sido de efectividad mínima o nula. El Estudio 2 arrojó resultados similares. En él se expuso a 20 niños a un procedimiento de intervención amplificada al leérseles 5 relatos diferentes sobre amistades interétnicas; durante un periodo de 5 semanas cada libro fue leído dos veces, y luego la lectura fue seguida por una conversación sobre los mensajes de los cuentos. Nuevamente no se observó una reducción del prejuicio racial. La ausencia de una reducción en el nivel de prejuicio tanto en el Estudio 1 como en el Estudio 2 destacó cómo la fuerza de los prejuicios contra una posición social más baja de grupos étnicos excluidos se desarrolla a edad temprana y que es difícil cambiar dichos prejuicios, lo que justifica que se preste más atención a la investigación de la educación en la primera infancia.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was conducted as part of the international Una Global Evaluation Group, whose members include (in addition to Aboud and Brown) Colin Tredoux, Linda R. Tropp, Ulrike Niens, Noraini M. Noor, Charlotte Cole, Buhle Zuma, and Luigi Castelli. They were all critical in the development of this intervention. Special thanks to Noraini Noor and Amanda Williams for their contributions to the data collection process in Jakarta and Bandung. Special acknowledgement to Irfan Amalee of Peace Generation Indonesia who wrote and illustrated the storybooks. They were produced by Mizan Publishers. We are grateful to Paul Connolly and the Una Global Organization (www.unaglobal.org) for providing funds to support this research, through funding from the Bernard van Leer Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies. Most importantly, we deeply appreciate the multi-lingual research assistants from Jakarta and Bandung who were critical to the study, and the school directors, teachers, parents, and children who graciously participated.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christia Spears Brown
    • 1
  • Michelle Tam
    • 1
  • Frances Aboud
    • 2
  1. 1.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.McGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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