Positive and negative intergroup contact among children and its effect on attitudes
The study of ethnic divisions around the world is now more urgently leading to programs to enhance respect and inclusion. Childhood is thought to be the proper age to create experiences that enhance respect and inclusion, because children may be more flexible than adolescents and adults. Likewise, intergroup contact is seen to be the best means to achieve this end. Yet the evidence in favor of contact in childhood is not as clear-cut as we may wish. In this chapter we critically review and analyze the evidence regarding the effects on respectful attitudes of different types of contact (such as contact that arises by attending integrated schools, contact that is vicariously experienced by watching cross-group friendships on television, and learning about negative contact through classroom discussion about racism). Our objective is to provide a corpus of programs found to be effective regarding inclusive contact and respectful attitudes with children in the 3 to 8 year age range. We build on four prior reviews of interventions to modify children’s attitudes, namely, Aboud (2009), Aboud and Levy (2000), Pfeifer, Brown, and Juvonen (2007), and Tropp and Prenovost (2007), though none focused on the early childhood years.