Girls are not as good at playing football as boys, and they do not have a clue about cars. Instead they know better how to dance and do not get into mischief as often as boys. Prejudices like these are cultivated from early childhood onwards by everyone.
“Approximately at the age of three to four years children start to prefer children of the same sex, and later the same ethnic group or nationality,” Prof. Dr. Andreas Beelmann of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) states. This is part of an entirely normal personality development, the director of the Institute for Psychology explains.
“It only gets problematic when the more positive evaluation of the own social group, which is adopted automatically in the course of identity formation, at some point reverts into bias and discrimination against others,” Beelmann continues.
But at the same time the primary school age is a critical time for prejudices to consolidate. “If there is no or only a few contact to members of social out groups, there is no personal experience to be made and generalising negative evaluations stick longer.” In this, scientists see an explanation for the particularly strong xenophobia in regions with a very low percentage of foreigners or migrants.
Moreover the Jena psychologists noticed that social ideas and prejudices are formed differently in children of social minorities. They do not have a negative attitude towards the majority to start with, more often it is even a positive one. The reason is the higher social status of the majority, which is being regarded as a role model. Only later, after having experienced discrimination, they develop prejudices, that then sticks with them much more persistently than with other children. “In this case prevention has to start earlier so it doesn’t even get that far,“ Beelmann is convinced.
Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw
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