Children's perceptions of discrimination: antecedents and consequences
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Little research has examined how and when children perceive themselves to be the targets of discrimination, and what effect the perception of discrimination has on children's development. Therefore, the primary purpose of this dissertation was to examine children’s perceptions of gender discrimination, with a particular focus on (a) the situational, developmental, and individual factors that predict perceptions of discrimination, and (b) the effects of such perceptions on self-esteem, motivation, identity, and perceived control. The secondary purpose of this dissertation was to examine how different debriefing protocols following deception affect children’s attitudes toward participation in research studies. First, the theory of mind abilities and gender attitudes of children ages 5 to 11 were assessed. Next, to assess at what age and under what conditions children perceive discrimination, children were given mild negative feedback in a situational context suggesting that discrimination was either likely or unlikely. Children were then asked to make attributions for negative feedback. In addition, children’s social and performance state self-esteem was assessed, as well as their social and performance perceived control, their motivation to continue with the task, their identification with the domain, and their perceived valuation of the domain. After completion of the measures, the participants were debriefed using one of two possible procedures. In the first procedure, the true nature of the study was explained and discussed. In the second procedure, the negative feedback was simply replaced with positive feedback. Children’s attitudes about participation and their own abilities were then assessed. Results concerning how child characteristics (i.e., age, gender), developmental factors (i.e., theory of mind), and individual factors (i.e., gender attitudes) predict discrimination attributions are discussed. In addition, the effects of discrimination attributions on self-esteem, perceived control, and motivation are discussed, as well as implications for public policy and future research.