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University of Wisconsin–Madison

A Parent-Led Intervention to Reduce Children’s Racial Biases

Children express racial biases from an early age. Such biases are harmful, especially to children of color, who experience significantly more racial discrimination at the hands of peers than do White children. Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently implicated experiences with peer-based racial discrimination as a significant contributor to racial disparities in American children’s health and academic outcomes. For example, Black children’s experiences with racial discrimination have been linked to increases in depression, suicide vulnerability and poor school performance.

One reason children of color continue to experience discrimination from an early age is that society lacks effective, empirically validated tools for addressing children’s racial biases. Additionally, society has failed to engage and support people who could be in the best position to address children’s racial biases from a young age—namely, parents.

This project will create and test the effects of a novel parent-led intervention program for reducing young children’s (4-7 years of age) racial biases. Parent-child dyads will be randomly assigned to an intervention or control program. Children and parents will complete measures before and after the study to assess effects of our training program on outcomes such as parents’ confidence in addressing race with their children as well as how children treat racial outgroup members. In addition to engaging parents as interventionists, another innovative feature of the project is that it shifts the  burden from victims of bias (who are often taught how to “handle” discrimination) to perpetrators of bias (who could and should work to reduce their biases). The study results will reveal practices that are effective in reducing racial biases early in development and contribute to  the design and evaluation of a new bias intervention tool.


Patricia Devine,  professor of psychology


Kristin Shutts, professor of psychology

Colleen Halliday, professor at the Medical University of South Carolina