Skin color perception and self-consciousness in young children

TitreSkin color perception and self-consciousness in young children
Type de publicationCommunications sans actes
Année de l'intervention2019
Titre de la Conférence/colloqueEuropean Congress of Psychology
jour/mois du congrès, colloque2-5 July
Auteur(s)Kerzil, J.
Ville, PaysMoscow, Russia

Researchers generally agree that babies (from 0,3) perceive color much before being able to name it (around 4,5). Gérard, Bilinski and Dugas (1989) have found that children are able to recognize and categorize colors from 3,5 years old.

In the USA, social psychologists have long been interested in the perception of skin-color in children (black vs white), while in Europe, most experiments (mostly in cognitive science) have focused on objects’ color perception (blue, red, yellow and green).

Yet, in France, in terms of skin-color, there is a majority group (whites) and minority groups (different skin-colors from light to dark brown). In America, authors have shown the effects of skin-colors in terms of racial attitudes (Kowalski, 2003 ; Williams, Boswell and Best, 1975) and concluded that children with darker skin-color have lower self-esteem (Rosenberg and Simmons, 1970).

According to Piaget (1932), a child comes to discover himself through a progressive comparison of his own body with other people's bodies, starting from his parents and peers. Thus, our study aims to assess young children’s skin-color perception and its consequences.

The methodology was based on directive interviews and a material composed of different photographs.

The children, aged from 3 to 6, went to two different schools: a white majority school located in the country side (N= 51) and a diverse school located in a suburban neighborhood (N=35).

Children were asked “which color are you?”, “which color is he or her?”, had to categorize pictures (4 women, 4 men, 4 children from 4 ethnical groups - Arabic, Asian, European and African) and answer to questions about skin-color and babies.

The results show that children in the predominantly white school acquire a knowledge of their own and other children’s skin-color later than children who live and attend school in a diverse environment. It also shows that, even when they are from mixed couples, children have difficulties to imagine that a white or black woman can have a baby with a man who does not have the same skin-color.

In light of these findings, we discuss the impact of skin-color differences among adopted children.