The crystallization of contemporary racial prejudice across the lifespan

P. J. Henry, David O. Sears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The conventional wisdom is that racial prejudice remains largely stable through adulthood. However, very little is known about the development of contemporary racial attitudes like symbolic racism. The growing crystallization of symbolic racism through the lifespan is tested using two data sets that measure the stability, consistency, and predictive validity of symbolic racism in samples ranging in age from young adults to the elderly. The results provide evidence that the crystallization of symbolic racism generally takes on a curvilinear trajectory across the lifespan, showing that it is already largely crystallized by voting age, that it continues to crystallize still further through adulthood and that it begins to decline in coherence in late adulthood. The results generally provide evidence confirming early speculations of symbolic racism theorists concerning the crystallization of symbolic racism across the lifespan and are discussed in terms of different theoretical perspectives on the relationship between aging and attitudes more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-590
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Aging
  • Attitude consistency
  • Attitude stability
  • Symbolic racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations


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