Accepted beliefs about the educational capabilities of minority students were challenged in a new study conducted by the College of Education at the University of Maryland in College Park.
The study was led by Natasha Cabrera, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the university, and looked at the advantages minority children possess rather than areas where they fall short.
The plethora of research on the development and well-being of minority children, “while rigorous and insightful, has often been deficit-oriented, emphasizing the negative effects of inadequate economic and social resources and an elevated rate of behavior problems, decreased social competence, and lower rates of school success among these children,” the study’s authors wrote.
The negative focus “has had the unintended consequence of eclipsing the strengths or assets that minority families possess to raise healthy children.”
According to the study, minority children possess advantages in three areas of development: social competence, language, and ethnic identity, which may stem from three aspects of their upbringing—a sense of orientation and obligation, discipline, and cultural socialization.
For example, non-White, low-income children are more versed than their peers in self-regulation—the ability to manage behavior, emotions, and attention—an ability which greatly impacts social skills and academic success.
Demonstrating how stereotypes can paint an incomplete or faulty picture, the authors said that past research has claimed that low-income African-American children experience problems in language expression. In fact, they said, those children command oral narrative skills which may help them read, produce narratives of higher quality and possess greater narrative comprehension than their White peers.
Cabrera said she hopes the report would inspire research that paints a more complete picture of the educational prospects of minority children and lead to targeted programs and interventions.
The study, “Positive Development of Minority Children,” appears in Social Policy Report, a publication of the Society for Research in Child Development.