Childhood Intergroup Contact Effects
How can we develop an inclusive and accepting society? Positive contact experiences, among people from different racial groups, during childhood can have long-lasting effects, influencing attitudes and behaviors into adulthood.
By Monica Li
- Intergroup contact theory is a well-established framework that tackles problems involving social exclusion and discrimination.
- The theory suggests that positive and intentional interactions of distinct social or identity groups can help improve intergroup relations and reduce prejudice. These positive effects have been shown among children and adults across a range of educational, recreational, and organizational settings, as well as in a variety of countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and European nations.
- Research shows that children can display prejudicial attitudes at early stages of their social development, which can instantiate into negative intergroup relations and patterns of social exclusion throughout their growth and into adulthood. When applied to changing youth attitudes, intergroup contact can effectively increase social harmony throughout children’s social development.
- Reduced Prejudice: Intergroup contact, especially under favorable conditions, can lead to a reduction in prejudice and stereotypes. When young people interact with individuals from different backgrounds, intergroup contact can humanize ouotgroup youth, dispel stereotypes, and challenge negative preconceptions.
- Promotion of Empathy: Contact with out-group members can promote empathy and perspective-taking. Young people may begin to understand the experiences and challenges faced by individuals from different backgrounds. This fosters greater empathy and compassion.
- Positive Social Norms: Intergroup contact can help establish positive social norms that reject discrimination and prejudice. When young people witness positive interactions between diverse groups, they are more likely to adopt similar attitudes and behaviors.
- Enhanced Social Skills: Interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds can improve social skills, communication abilities, and conflict resolution skills in young people. These skills can be valuable throughout their lives.