Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Stories that move them: Changing children's behaviour toward diverse peers

Abstract

Globally, our social worlds are becoming increasingly racially and ethnically diverse. Despite this, little attention has been given to how children negotiate this diversity. In this study, we examine whether a value‐in‐diversity storybook intervention encourages young children to engage in intergroup contact with racially diverse peers. The lunchroom seating behaviour of 4‐ to 6‐year olds attending 3 racially diverse primary schools was recorded at 3 different points during a 1‐week period. Seating behaviour was coded based on the race of the children, and levels of segregation were calculated. Before hearing the story, we observed racial self‐segregation; the children were more likely to sit with same‐race peers. However, immediately following the story, the children were no longer significantly racially segregated. This effect was not maintained; up to 48 hr later, the children again showed evidence of racial self‐segregation. Our findings suggest that exposure to racially diverse peers alone is not sufficient for promoting intergroup contact. We argue that it is vital to develop sustainable teacher‐led interventions if we are to harness the potential of diverse school settings for bolstering intergroup relations.

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