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Racial-ethnic and National Identification among Children in Middle Childhood: What does it mean to be American?


This mixed methods study explores children's emerging sense of American identity during middle childhood. Conducted in a school setting which is committed to celebrating diversity across multiple domains, researchers investigated the extent to which children in middle childhood identify as American, and explored their beliefs and attitudes about Americans. Open-ended responses indicated that children frequently associated Americans with identifiable symbols and emblems, nationality, and particular racial and ethnic groups. In addition, children from diverse socioeconomic and racial and ethnic backgrounds endorsed positive beliefs about Americans. Quantitative analysis revealed that the ways in which children self-identify as American, differs as a function of generational status, indicating that notions of what it means to be American may be different for children from immigrant families, who tend to explicitly separate notions of racial and ethnic identity from their national American identity. Implications and suggestions for future research on American identity are discussed.

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