In a follow-up to a 2010 study that examined children's attitudes on race, and on the heels of the racially-charged killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, CNN's Anderson Cooper is highlighting findings from a year-long investigative study that explores how children perceive "interracial contact in their daily lives."
The first of Coopers' findings, revealed on his show AC360, suggests that African-American children have more positive interpretations of situations involving black and white children than their white counterparts do.
Researchers drew the conclusion after observing first-graders' reactions to photos depicting children on a playground. Along with the photos, the children were asked the following questions: "What's happening in this picture?", "Are these two children friends?" and "Would their parents like it if they were friends?"
CNN reports the children's responses as follows:
Overall, black first-graders had far more positive interpretations of the images than white first-graders. The majority of black 6-year-olds were much more likely to say things like, "Chris is helping Alex up off the ground" versus "Chris pushed Alex off the swing."
They were also far more likely to think the children pictured are friends and to believe their parents would like them to be friends. In fact, only 38% of black children had a negative interpretation of the pictures, whereas almost double -- a full 70% of white kids -- felt something negative was happening.
Researchers have long-since linked this type of bias to how frequently parents discuss race with their children.
In 2007, a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that 75 percent of white families with kindergartners never, or almost never, talked about race while 75 percent of black parents did.
In CNN's 2010 report, black parents admitted that they began discussing race at a very early age, describing a need to prepare their children for a society where their skin color will create obstacles for them.
Similarly, child psychologist and University of Maryland professor Dr. Melanie Killen, who was brought on as a consultant to design and implement Anderson Cooper's study, told CNN that "African-American parents ... are very early on preparing their children for the world of diversity and also for the world of potential discrimination," whereas "white parents often believe their children are socially colorblind and race is not an issue necessary to address," she said.
Read more of Killen's findings and what she says happens to black children's optimism about interracial friendships by the time they reach adolescence, here.