Children aged as young as five are capable of demonstrating racist views, according to new research.
The University of Bristol and York University in Toronto study looked at the automatic attitudes of 359 Caucasian children aged five to 12-years-old by testing their preferences of unknown white and black children in photographs.
While there was no evidence of automatic negativity toward black people, they demonstrated automatic positivity in response to white people.
The study also found that older children, aged nine to 12, weren’t automatically positive toward other white children, which suggests that individual characteristics, such as shared interests, become more important as children get older.
University of Bristol academic Dr Amanda Williams said the results of the study were “concerning”, given “adults who show stronger automatic bias towards white people often demonstrate less positive behaviour when interacting with black people”.
"Our results suggest that interventions designed to decrease negative feelings toward different racial groups might not be the best approach as there is little evidence these attitudes have solidified in childhood, she said.
"Instead, successful interventions for young children aged five to eight-years-old might include extending the notion of the ‘in-group’ – people who they view as being like them - to include people from other racial groups.
"For older children aged nine to 12-years-old, highlighting role models from different racial groups might help to strengthen inclusive racial attitudes. Future research is needed to examine these intervention possibilities in more detail."
With racial and ethnic diversity on the rise globally, researchers say children will need to learn to successfully interact with diverse others in order to be successful in their future careers.