The Nature and Consequences of Essentialist Beliefs About Race in Early Childhood

Tara M. Mandalaywala, Gabrielle Ranger-Murdock, David M. Amodio, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is widely believed that race divides the world into biologically distinct kinds of people—an essentialist belief inconsistent with reality. Essentialist views of race have been described as early emerging, but this study found that young children (n = 203, Mage = 5.45) hold only the more limited belief that the physical feature of skin color is inherited and stable. Overall, children rejected the causal essentialist view that behavioral and psychological characteristics are constrained by an inherited racial essence. Although average levels of children's causal essentialist beliefs about race were low, variation in these beliefs was related to children's own group membership, exposure to diversity, as well as children's own social attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e437-e453
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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