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Perceptions of Children: The Influence of Family Configuration
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by Kimberly M. Corner - Nebraska Wesleyan University
Categories: Developmental | Educational
To examine how children in different types of families are perceived, 57 students at Nebraska Wesleyan University were asked to read 1 of 3 short vignettes describing a child's family (intact vs. divorced vs. stepfamily) and then rate the child on 16 characteristics. With the exception of family configuration, the vignettes were identical across the 3 experimental conditions. Overall, a child with an intact family was perceived as having stronger social skills and higher self-esteem than a child with a divorced single parent or stepparent. A child in a divorced family or stepfamily was perceived as more anxious, depressed, and withdrawn than a child from a nuclear family. The findings indicate that people stereotype children solely on the basis of family configuration, and have important implications for professionals who work with children or family systems.