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The shadows of difference: ethnicity and young children's friendships

Barron, Ian (2011) The shadows of difference: ethnicity and young children's friendships. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14 (5). pp. 655-673. ISSN 1361-3324

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Abstract

This paper explores the interaction of ethnicity and friendship in a kindergarten in England. Existing literature from different traditions, such as developmental psychology, sociocultural theory and postmodernism, suggests that pre-school children tend to choose friends from the same ethnic group. The research was carried out using an ethnographic approach over the period of a year. The findings indicate that the children did play largely with others of the same sex and same ethnic origin. Children's friendships, sense of self and sense of other, it is suggested, emerged not from within but from experiences of the activities in which they did or did not engage. Hence the children's ethnic identities and friendships were shaped by the internalisation of what they saw and heard as they engaged in the kindergarten's activities. These led to the children's identities being performed and internalised in particular sorts of ways that marked out the children as familiar ('like us') or unfamiliar ('not like us') to others according to their previous experiences. Thus these identity performances in relation to the activities offered seemed to be internalised and to come to affect the friendships that children formed with each other.

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