Between two worlds: consequences of dual-group membership among children

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Aumer-Ryan, Katherine Vera, 1981-

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Increasing numbers of individuals are simultaneously members of two or more social categories. To investigate the effects of single- versus dual-identity status on children's group views and intergroup attitudes, elementary-school-age children (N = 91) attending a summer school program were assigned to novel color groups that included single-identity ("blue" and "red") and dual-identity ("bicolored," or half red and half blue) members. The degree to which dual-identity status was verified by the authority members was also manipulated: teachers in some classrooms were instructed to label and make use of three social groups ("blues," "reds," "bicolors") to organize their classrooms, whereas teachers in other classrooms were instructed to label and make use of only the two "mono-colored" groups ("blues" and "reds"). After several weeks in their classrooms, children's (a) views of group membership (i.e., importance, satisfaction, perceived similarity, group preference), (b) intergroup attitudes (i.e., traits ratings, group evaluations, peer preferences), and (c) categorization complexity (i.e., tendency to sort individuals along multiple dimensions simultaneously) were assessed. Results varied across measures but, in general, indicated that dual-identity status affected children's views of their ingroup. Specifically, dual-identity children in classrooms in which their status was not verified were more likely to (a) perceive themselves as similar to other ingroup members (i.e., bicolored children), (b) want to keep their shirt color, and (c) assume that a new student would want their shirt color more than their single-identity peers. They also showed higher levels of ingroup bias in their competency ratings of groups than their single-identity peers, and demonstrated greater cognitive flexibility when thinking about social categories than their single-identity peers. Overall, these results suggest that dual-identity children experience identity issues differently than their single-identity peers and that additional theories are needed to address the complexities of social membership and bias among children with dual memberships.





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