Racial orientation, perceptions of social stratification and self- esteem in South African children.
The recent and past history of South Africa make this an ideal setting for the study of attitudes of children towards themselves, their own race group and other groups. This research examines self-esteem, perceived social stratification, racial identification and preference attributions. The study followed a cross-sectional design with a sample of 228 grade 1 and grade 4 school pupils. These children were selected from three different types of schools in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands region ensuring representation from three of the traditionally classified race groups - Black, Indian and White. Three assessment instruments were administered: the Culture-Free Self-esteem Inventory of Battle (1992); the Social Status Technique which assessed Perceived social stratification, .racial identification and preference attributions; and an adaptation of the Social Distance Scale of Bogardus (1925) which was administered to a proportion of the sample and correlated with the Social Status Technique preference scores as a measure of validity for this scale. Analysis of the results included provision of reliability and validity data of the Social Status Technique. Results both confirm and contradict some of the various findings of recent local and international research. With respect to self-esteem, it was found that the younger black children showed significantly lower scores than the Indian and white children of the sample. The younger black children also showed less distinct scores on racial identification, as well as evidence of out-group preference attributions. Older black children showed clearer ingroup identification and preference. The younger Indian children identified mostly with their own group, but not significantly more than with the 'Nhite group. They identified significantly less with the black group. Older Indian children showed clearer own-group identification. Preference attributions were made for the Indian and white groups by the Indian subjects. White children of both age groups showed more distinct scores on in-group identification, and a greater degree of in-group preference attributions than the other two groups. All subjects showed recognition of social stratification, rating the white group as more advantaged than the Indian, and particularly the black group, which was rated lowest. Theoretical implications are discussed, and recommendations for future research in this area are made.
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