Promoting equity and justice in childhood: Policy implications

Killen, Melanie; Rutland, Adam and Ruck, Martin. 2011. Promoting equity and justice in childhood: Policy implications. Social Policy Report, 25(4), pp. 1-25. ISSN 1075-7031 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Children around the world are affected by discrimination and social exclusion due to their age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, indigenous background, or other statuses. When considering the negative consequences of discrimination and social exclusion on children’s development and well-being, it is of paramount importance
to examine the psychological origins of prejudice and discrimination in order to create effective intervention programs. Legal mandates are only one step towards the elimination of prejudice and discrimination; there is also a need
for interventions to change social interactions and behavior. Surprisingly, such
interventions are rarely informed by developmental theory and research. Taking
an international perspective, this Social Policy Report 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. We 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. Childhood, when attitudes
are only just beginning to formulate and develop, is the time for implementing
effective interventions designed to promote equity, tolerance, and justice.

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Date Deposited:

22 Jul 2015 12:42

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 12:43


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