Awareness of racial stereotypes can significantly affect the way children respond socially and academically, a new study has claimed.
During the study, researchers from Rush University Medical Centre studied 120 elementary school children from an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse area of the United States.
They were asked questions to determine their ability to understand another person's stereotypical beliefs as well as their own comprehension of broadly held stereotypes.
They were also asked about their own experiences with discrimination.
The researchers found that children between 5 to 11 years become aware that many people believe stereotypes, including stereotypes about academic ability, for example, how intelligent certain racial and ethnic groups are.
When children become aware of these types of bias about their own racial or ethnic group, it can affect how they respond to everyday situations, ranging from interacting with others to taking tests.
The study showed that African American and Latino youths who were aware of broadly held stereotypes about their groups performed poorly on a standardized test, confirming the negative stereotype in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"These results have important implications for social policy," according to Clark McKown, assistant professor of pediatrics and behavioural sciences at Rush University Medical Centre, who led the study.
"Specifically, they suggest the need for educational policies and comprehensive programs to reduce stereotypes and their consequences early in children's school careers," McKown added.
The study appears in the journal Child Development.