The relations of White parents’ implicit racial attitudes to their children's differential empathic concern toward White and Black victims

Wen Wang, Tracy L. Spinrad, Diana E. Gal-Szabo, Deborah Laible, Sonya Xinyue Xiao, Jingyi Xu, Rebecca Berger, Nancy Eisenberg, Gustavo Carlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The goal of this study was to investigate the relations between White parents’ implicit racial attitudes and their children's racially based bias in empathic concern toward White and Black victims of injustice as well as the moderating role of children's age in this relation. Children aged 5–9 years (N = 190) reported how sorry (i.e., sympathy) and nervous (i.e., personal distress) they felt after watching sympathy-inducing videos in which either a White (non-Hispanic) child or a Black child was teased by peers. Participants’ primary caregivers (mostly mothers) completed a computerized Implicit Association Test to assess their implicit racial attitudes. Parents’ implicit race bias was associated with their children's reported sympathy toward Black victims and their sympathetic bias (i.e., relative sympathy toward White vs. Black victims); however, results were moderated by children's age. Specifically, parents with higher implicit race bias tended to have children with lower levels of sympathy toward Black victims for younger children and higher levels of sympathetic bias for younger and average-aged children but not for older children. Older children tended to report relatively high levels of sympathy toward Black victims and low levels of sympathetic bias regardless of their parents’ implicit attitudes. The importance of parents’ implicit attitudes in understanding young children's race-based moral emotional responses and the implications for intervention work are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104928
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume199
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Empathy
  • Implicit racial attitudes
  • Personal distress
  • Racial bias
  • School-aged children
  • Sympathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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