The Messages African American Mothers and Fathers Give Adolescents about Race Are Shaped by Their Own Experiences with Racial Discrimination and Their Observations and Fears of Racial Discrimination




Holloway, Kathleen
Varner, Fatima

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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center



African American parents commonly socialize their adolescent children about race, ethnicity, and interracial relations. These racial socialization messages include communications about potential racial barriers – known as preparation for bias – and messages about African American culture, history and heritage – known as cultural socialization. How parents view their race and think others view them, as well as whether they are a mother or father, can influence the relationship between race-related stressors and the racial socialization messages that they give their children. Analyzing data from a national sample of 567 African American parents of adolescents, Human Development & Family Sciences graduate student Kathleen Holloway and HDFS assistant professor and PRC faculty scholar Fatima Varner found that personal and vicarious racial discrimination experiences were related to the cultural socialization messages parents gave their adolescent children. Parents who gave more messages to prepare their children for bias included, for example, those who experienced high vicarious racial discrimination who also believe that others view their race negatively. Holloway and Varner recommend increasing resources available to schools, mental health providers, and institutions that serve African American families, encouraging schools to adopt curricula that include racial socialization messages.

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