The Head Start experience : an inquiry into the development of negative race prejudice among disadvantaged preschoolers

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Huffman, Vincent Charles
Izmirlian, Harry
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Thesis (M.A.)
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That negative racial prejudice is learned, that the learning process begins at an early age, and that the behavior can be influenced and changed are generally accepted tenets of modern behavioral science. The present study has attempted to evaluate the effect of the Head Start Child Development Program on the evolution of race prejudice in the disadvantaged preschooler.A sample of 20 Head Start children, ages 4-6s were compared with 20 children of the same age range deriving 10 each from an all black and an all-white low income day care center.Attention was given to an equal male-female distribution in all four groups. Participants were further matched socio-economically to the extent possible.All 40 participants responded to a series of questions, following an exercise involving the placement of a family of white dolls and a family of black dolls in a doll house. The testing situation remained essentially unstructured, to the extent possible, in an effort to elicit spontaneous responses.In all cases, familiarity had been previously established with the writer.Responses were to questions and exercises designed to illuminate on a tendency to physically integrate or segregate (as reflected by actual placement of the dolls in situations of black-black, white-white, or black-white interactions, beyond calculated chance expectation), and to determine relative levels of awareness of color differences in terms of the concept of race and, finally, any preferences for one color over the other.A systematized method for quantifying the results in terms of these factors was subsequently developed.Salient findings indicated that although involvement in the Head Start program had a generally positive effect on the child participants in terms of diminishing racially prejudiced types of behaviors, ultimately the elimination of such behavior will require equality and integration in the total environment.