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Promoting Equity, Tolerance and Justice in Early Childhood

Melanie Killen, Adam Rutland, Martin D. Ruck
April 2013

This brief describes a developmental framework on how children understand the cultural hierarchies, status, and power related to social groups as well as the social exchanges that contribute to both prejudice reduction and the promotion of equity and justice concepts.

Hierarchies in the child’s world reflect the organization of the peer culture, which often reflects categories of status from the adult world (e.g., based on race, ethnicity, and gender), but are manifested differently. Understanding these hierarchies provides an important window into how prejudice is formed and manifested in development. Effective interventions require understanding how it is that children experience discrimination as victims and also as perpetrators of exclusion, and how adults are powerful sources of both negative and positive influences.

The authors identify relevant research findings on the positive and negative aspects of peer relationships, adult-child interactions, and changes in social cognitive development that bear on reducing prejudice and promoting concepts of equity and justice, as well as effective international models.