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PRIDE (in the name of love): talking about cultural differences early on

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh, in the US, has concluded that parents and educators need to begin conversations about cultural differences with their children from as young as age 3.

The study, titled Pittsburgh PRIDE (positive racial identity development in early education), concluded that children develop social biases from as early as age 3–5, with 3-year-olds attributing more positive traits to the dominant societal culture and 5-year-olds attributing negative traits to non-dominant cultures.

“When children have questions about race,” the report stated, “they naturally turn to the important adults in their lives – teachers, parents, other family members – for answers. Often, adults are afraid to talk about race, don’t have the right resources, or just don’t know where to start.”

While ‘race’ is a key concern for early learning in the US, in Australia what tends to be more important is cultural and/or linguistic diversity, said Alison Elliot, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Sydney.

“Australia is extremely multicultural in many locations but in some areas it’s mono-cultural,” Elliot said. “We want children to be proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage or whatever their background. Developing cultural and linguistic identity in young children is important; it’s part of our work in early childhood education and is reflected in the Early Years Learning Framework.

The US study called for more resources to support parents and teachers in helping children build positive cultural identities. The authors also called for more research into how young children view cultural identities, along with cultural awareness training and learning opportunities for teachers and early childhood learning practitioners.

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