Penn State’s 30th Annual National Symposium on Family Issues, held recently at University Park, focused on how families can address racial/ethnic inequalities and racism toward reducing disparities in health, education, and wealth in the U.S.
The symposium, Family Socialization Around Race/Ethnicity and Racism: Advancing Understanding of Racial/Ethnic Inequalities in the U.S., included three sessions focused on race and racism in the U.S., racial/ethnic socialization of youth in families of color, and parents’ attitudes and practices pertaining to antiracist socialization.
According to symposium organizers, research on family socialization on issues of race/ethnicity and racism is limited.
“Our goal was to draw scholars’ attention to the study of family socialization around racial/ethnic inequalities and racism in the U.S., with a focus on family-focused programs, practices and policies that may help to address this national challenge,” said symposium co-organizer Dawn Witherspoon, associate professor of psychology. “In the face of its significance to our nation and to the world, until recently, study of how parents socialize their children about race and racism has been conducted by a small group of scholars and not treated as a central issue in family research and scholarship.”
Symposium co-organizer Valarie King, professor of sociology, demography, and human development and family studies, said “This year’s symposium included an amazing group of scholars, from multiple disciplines, who are conducting cutting edge research in an understudied area of national significance. These scholars shared their expertise, experiences, and insights, and we expect their presentations will stimulate novel research of scientific and practical significance.”
The first session provided an overview of social stratification and its links with racial/ethnic disparities in a range of key health and well-being outcomes in the U.S. Speakers also discussed their research into how perceptions of racism, racial colorblindness and other factors have implications for such disparities.
The second session included an overview of research on racial/ethnic socialization beginning with the earliest studies and showcasing progress and recent increasing interest in the topic. Speakers also discussed how research has and can be further translated into family-focused intervention programs to promote effective racial/ethnic socialization practices for youth of color.
The final session of the two-day symposium considered antiracist socialization by parents, particularly among majority white families. Speakers described their research on factors that may account for the nature and extent of parents’ antiracist socialization practices. Topics also included racial colorblind socialization practices and the implications of parental socialization impact how youth understand racism, power, privilege, and inequalities.
The Symposium on Family Issues is sponsored annually by The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R13 HD048150) along with Penn State’s Population Research Institute and Social Science Research Institute. Additional support was provided by the Penn State departments of Sociology & Criminology, Psychology, and Human Development & Family Studies, in addition to support from the Child Study Center, the Prevention Research Center, and the Clinical & Translational Science Institute.