Interracial Marriages and Biracial Children
Children of mixed parentage account for a growing population in early childhood programs. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported 620,000 births of children with one Black and one White parent in 1990 and predicted a continuing increase. A similar pattern is seen for marriages between other races and for the birth of children with other dual heritages. Much like divorce, the stress related to interracial marriages comes from society's disapproval of the unions of two people of different races. The stress for children comes from a kind of ambiguous ethnicity or conflicts about their dual ethnic identity.
Early childhood educators are aware of the connection between a child's success and his or her racial/ethnic self-esteem. Identity is an emerging concept for young children. For young biracial or bicultural children it is a fluid or changing identity, depending on the child's development and environment (California Child Care Health Program, 2000). It will be important for children to process their dual identities, and early childhood educators will need to provide support to both children and families during those times.
Socialization of Biracial Children
What typically happens to biracial and bicultural children is that they are socialized much more in one culture than the other. "The child of dual heritage is not likely to have equal exposure to both of her cultural heritages" (Morrison & Rogers, 1996, p. 30). At the same time, the biracial child is aware of the values, perceptions, and typical behaviors of the two cultural systems. Very early in these children's lives, they become aware of being different. Whether it be in child care or preschool, or in the community, the biracial child may experience the social pressure that is often directed to someone who is different.
When parents are asked about the racial or cultural identity of their biracial child, their responses vary significantly. Those responses indicate their uncertainty about the dual heritage or their discouragement with societal pressure. The variation in parents' responses is one indication of the stress that is experienced by families of dual races or cultures. Biracial children experience the feeling of not "fitting in" anywhere during their childhood and it becomes a serious source of conflict for many biracial adolescents (Gibbs, 1989). One of the socialization messages comes from society and it tells children that everyone belongs in a group. From there, children develop their identities within a group. The situation is further complicated because children need to identify themselves with their parents, and each of the parents has a different ethnic identity. Ideally, biracial children need to identify with both of their parents, but society and the parents themselves don't support such development.
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