Reducing heterosexist attitudes toward relationships in young children
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School climates in the U.S. are typically characterized by heterosexism, or bias against sexual minority students. Research suggests that elementary school children might benefit from lessons that acknowledge and support same-sex romantic relationships (Jetlova & Fish, 2005; Griffin & Oullet, 2010). The primary aim of this project is to design and test the effectiveness of an intervention aimed at teaching children about the existence of families with same-sex parents and improving their attitudes toward these families. A secondary aim is to explore whether several individual differences variables moderate attitudinal changes. The study took place at a local private school, and 106 children participated in the assessment. Children were assigned to the sexual minority inclusive or sexual minority non-inclusive condition. Inclusive lessons provided age-appropriate, active lessons about families that included the explicit modeling and valuing of same-sex parents. Non-inclusive lessons were identical, but did not include any explicit instruction about same-sex parents. Data collection occurred at a pretest before the lessons occurred and an immediate posttest following lesson completion. The efficacy of the lessons was assessed with three measures: the Heterosexist Attitudes Toward Relationships Scale (Clark & Bigler, 2014); a family creation task, in which children grouped photographs into possible families; and a behavioral task in which children were presented with five children’s books, each about a different kind of family, and asked to select their favorites. Additionally, I assessed four factors hypothesized to moderate children’s reactions to the lessons, including participants’ a) age, b) gender, c) gender stereotyping (COAT-AM; Liben & Bigler, 2002), and d) reliance on inherence heuristic (Sutherland & Cimpian, in press). Results indicate that children, regardless of condition, improved in their knowledge of and attitudes toward same-sex couples after intervention. For the measure of same-sex romance knowledge, there was interaction of time and condition. Children in the inclusive condition had higher levels of same-sex romance knowledge than those in the non-inclusive condition. Contrary to our hypothesis, none of our predicted individual difference factors moderated children’s reactions to the lessons. This study provides useful information for educators who wish to implement LGB inclusive curricula in their elementary classrooms.