Synergistic Process

Although scholars studying racial/ethnic socialization have focused primarily on goals initiated by parents for their children, it is important to recognize that racial/ethnic socialization is a bidirectional process shaped by parents and children. Parents' bring to the process attitudes, beliefs, values, and ideas about race and race-relations that form from their experiences. Parents also bring expectations regarding the competencies or coping skills their children will need to negotiate negative experiences that are based on their racial or ethnic group membership. However, children's developing racial knowledge and their experiences in extra-familial settings also shape the content and frequency of parents' communications to them about race. Children's experiences and questions may prompt parents to share attitudes, values, and information regarding race and intergroup relations regardless of parents' intended racial/ethnic socialization agendas.

Notably, qualitative studies have been better able to capture the dynamic, changing, and transactional qualities of racial/ethnic socialization processes than have studies based on self-report methodologies. These qualitative studies suggest that parents are quite aware of the transactional nature of their racial/ethnic socialization efforts. In a number of them, parents' narratives feature the queries and experiences children that prompt conversations about race. Thus, racial/ethnic socialization is primarily contained within nuanced microsocial exchanges between parents and children. However, studies to date have not attempted to distinguish situations in which racial/ethnic socialization is child- versus parent-initiated, or to elaborate the synergistic qualities of the process.

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