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Ingroup preference and self-concept of urban Aboriginal-Australian children

Pedersen, Anne (1999) Ingroup preference and self-concept of urban Aboriginal-Australian children. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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While prejudice against Aboriginal-Australian people in Perth is well documented (e.g., Pedersen & Walker, 1997), no research exists as to whether Aboriginal children feel this prejudice, and if so whether it relates to their sense of self. The present project examines these issues. Its major emphasis is the self-attitudes of urban Aboriginal-Australian children (primarily local Nyoongah) and - to a lesser degree - Anglo­Australian children, both at a group and personal level. More specifically, the project examines the children's ingroup preference (i.e., how they feel about their cultural group) and their self-concept (i.e., how they feel about themselves personally), and the relationship between the two constructs. Also of interest is the effect of culture of interviewer on such self-attitudes, the relationship between the children's self-attitudes and reflected appraisals (how the children feel others like them), and the relationship between the children's self­attitudes and their teachers' ratings of their academic performance.

Chapter One gives a brief introduction to the topic, and Chapters Two and Three examine the research relating to ingroup preference and self-concept/ self-esteem. Chapter Four outlines the issues relating to the testing of Aboriginal children, and details three pilot studies. Within this chapter, Study One examines what facets of self are important to both Aboriginal and Anglo children. Studies Two and Three pilot-test the ingroup preference and self-concept scales. Chapters Five and Six present the main studies. The main focus of Chapter Five (Study Four) is to investigate the ingroup preference of Aboriginal children, and the relationship between ingroup preference and self-concept. The study (ii) particularly focuses on the effects of interviewer culture (Aboriginal versus Anglo) on the children's responses. 117 Aboriginal children aged 5-12 years were interviewed about their ingroup preference. Children aged eight and over were also interviewed about their selfconcept and reflected appraisals. Children under eight years of age were not interviewed due to controversy in the literature about testing very young children in this respect. The children showed greater ingroup preference when interviewed by an Aboriginal interviewer; no such effect was found with self-concept scores. While age had no significant effect on ingroup preference, a negative correlation existed between age and self-concept. Self-concept scores were significantly more positive than, and were unrelated to, ingroup preference scores. In general, the Aboriginal children demonstrated awareness of specific cultural stereotypes at an early age.

With respect to the reflected appraisals questions, results differed depending upon the interviewer. Using data from the Aboriginal interviewer, results indicated that almost half the children felt that the wider community didn't like them, with boys in the older age bracket feeling this more than girls of the same age. Reflected appraisals items were more strongly related to self-concept rather than ingroup preference measures; in addition, family influences on self-concept scores were on the whole stronger than societal ones. It was concluded that family support buffers Aboriginal children to a degree from the attitudes of the wider community.

In Chapter Six, the final study is described and discussed. This involved testing the ingroup preference of 60 Aboriginal and 60 Anglo (iii) children aged 6-12 years. As in Study Four, children aged eight and above were also interviewed about their self-concept and reflected appraisals. These variables were then linked with teachers' ratings of academic performance. Results indicated that Anglo children showed greater ingroup preference and scored higher on teacher appraisals than Aboriginal children, although there was no difference on self-concept. Complex relationships were also found between reflected appraisals and the other variables that differed depending upon the culture of child.

Seven major findings emerged from this project. First, both Aboriginal and Anglo children demonstrated awareness of specific social stereotypes of Aboriginal and Anglo people at a very early age. This led to Aboriginal children scoring lower on ingroup preference than Anglo children. However, responses of the children were extremely heterogeneous. Second, both Aboriginal and Anglo children scored high on self-concept scores, which supports the majority of previous research that minority groups do not necessarily score lower in this regard. Third, Aboriginal children scored higher on ingroup preference with a same-culture interviewer than with an Anglo- Australian interviewer. Fourth, how the children felt about themselves personally was unrelated to their ingroup preference in all studies. Fifth, regarding reflected appraisals, family influences on ingroup preference and self-concept scores were on the whole stronger than societal ones. Sixth, in Study Four, almost half the Aboriginal children (especially the older boys) felt that the wider community didn't like (iv) them. Finally, Aboriginal children scored lower than Anglo children on academic performance.

The overall conclusion reached in this project is that the problems faced by Aboriginal children are only likely to be alleviated by a great deal of structural change, as cultural oppressions are perpetuated by societal rules. A good place to start is within the school system itself, which in some respects reflects the societal system at large.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Walker, Iain
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