Multiracial Children in Child Development Textbooks

Multiracial Children in Child Development Textbooks

Early Childhood Education Journal
Volume 35, Number 3 (December, 2007)
Pages 253-259
Print ISSN: 1082-3301; Online ISSN: 1573-1707
DOI 10.1007/s10643-007-0157-8

Francis Wardle

The 2000 US census was the first to allow respondents to check more than one race/ethnic response for their identity. About 6.8 million Americans did so, and a disproportionate percentage of them were children under age 18 years old. The purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which this change is reflected in contemporary child psychology textbooks. Twelve books were examined to determine whether they covered multiracial and multiethnic children. Results of this study showed that only two of these books addressed issues related to the healthy development of multiracial/multiethnic children in any detail; and, while several used terms such as biracial and bicultural, these terms were always used to describe single-race minority children living in a majority context. The discussion section covers possible reasons for this omission.

For the first time in many years the 2000 U.S. Census allowed people in the United States with more than one racial/ethnic heritage to accurately report their racial/ethnic identity to their government (Williams, 2006). Respondents were permitted to check more than one response to the question of racial or ethnic identity (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2000). In response to this change, 6.8 million Americans identified themselves with more than one racial/ethnic category. Further, forty percent of these respondents were children under 18 years of age (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2000). This radical change was the result of a powerful grassroots effort of various multiracial groups and individuals in this country before the 2000 census, including parents—biological and adoptive—of multiracial children (Williams, 2006). Thus this statistical change in the demographics of this country truly reflects a change in the thinking of many parents; it′s not simply an artifact of government policy.

The question this study addresses is whether the shift in the way the U.S. government categories its citizens is reflected in college textbooks published since the change was made. Specifically, I selected textbooks that cover child development and human development, because racial and ethnic identity has come to be considered a critically important aspect in the development of healthy children. The definitions I use are, multiethnic: a person or child whose acknowledged identity includes the two U.S. Census ethnic categories (Hispanic/non Hispanic); multiracial: a person or child whose acknowledged identity includes two or more of the U.S. Census categories (Wardle & Cruz-Janzen, 2004). Clearly, many children can be considered multiethnic and multiracial, especially as these terms are currently in considerable flux…

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