"His skin doesn't match what he wants to do": Children's perceptions of stereotype threat

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Stereotype threat is a key contributor to chronic racial/ethnic disparities in mental health, physical health, and academic outcomes. Emerging evidence suggests that stereotype threat may be a critical concern for narrowing these disparities. The objective of the current study is to determine whether children between the ages of 7-11 consciously perceive stereotype threat, and to examine children's descriptions of the phenomenon. Age-appropriate vignettes illustrated 6 forms of stereotype threat. 15 children from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds read and responded to 3 vignettes each. Interview transcripts were analyzed to determine if participants identified and articulated the core concept and eliciting conditions for each form of threat. All children were able to recognize and describe the core concept for at least 1 form of stereotype threat. Threats to a person's own self-concept were the most commonly identified, whereas threats directed toward a group were less easily recognized and articulated. Children were able to describe conditions associated with threat, although not all conditions were recognized in the context of each particular vignette. Children's responses to the vignettes illustrating stereotype threat suggest that children are able to perceive and describe stereotype threat in ways similar to adults. The primary importance of threats to the self and secondary importance of group threats may be explained by the developmental context of children's emerging social perspective taking skills. Addressing the effects of stereotype threat at younger ages may prevent persistent and cumulative disparities in health, mental health, and academic outcomes from arising.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-625
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2017


  • Middle childhood
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Qualitative
  • Stereotype threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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