How You Talk to Your Kids May Lead to Stereotyping

Speaking in generalizations like “the Irish love potatoes” may seem harmless, but it could be teaching your children to form unhealthy prejudices, the Los Angeles Times reported Aug. 8.

Sweeping generalizations aren’t harmful in and of themselves, but they may prime children to be more accepting of other generalizations like “Indians can’t drive” or “women aren’t funny,” researchers from New York University (NYU) and Princeton University find.

The “pernicious consequences” of kids’ hearing that particular categories of people (based on race or gender, for example) have inherent characteristics, rather than that all people are individuals with their own qualities, the study authors say.

Instead of using all-encompassing turns of phrase, try to qualify your statements, lead study author Marjorie Rhodes, Ph.D, of NYU, suggests. So, saying, “lots of Irish people love potatoes” is preferable to “the Irish love potatoes,” for instance.

The study appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Photo © Mike Licht, via Flickr)