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Clark and Clark Doll Experiment Revisited Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 3rd, 2021

Literature Review

The present-day reality in the American society make many people recall the time when African-American people were discriminated and oppressed. But these recollections are determined by positive events – for the first time in the US history an African-American person can become President of the country. In this situation, I consider it necessary to revisit the Clark & Clark experiment and apply its methods to the modern Americans. Special importance in my study will be given to the attitudes of children of 4 – 6 years towards their skin color and identity.

This topic has been widely studied by scientists and researchers who developed its most important aspects. Thus, according to Meyers (2002), the attitudes and racial preferences of children studying in a European-American environment and in an African-American environment are rather similar in terms of African-American children’s not being ashamed of their identity and race. Moreover, their parents and kindergarten teachers were the supporters of inclusion of race study in their curricula. This topic finds its reflection in the study of two groups of children, white and black, regarding their identity and group preferences. Using the Clark & Clark Doll Experiment modified to some extent, Gregor and James (1966) managed to demonstrate the high rate of self-identification and group preferences displayed by African-American children (over 95 %). At the same time, the examples of low self-esteem and changed identity can be found in the recently published research. Thus, according to Powell-Hompson (1992), who implemented the Clark & Clark Doll Experiment technique, black children are more inclined to identify themselves with the socially predominant white race and to be ashamed of their color of skin. The situation, what is more important seems not to have change at all over the last decade. As Bagby-Yound testifies, black children still tend to reject their races when offered to choose between a white and a black doll as Clark & Clark proposed (2008).

Taking into consideration all the above presented pieces of evidence, the need of the new research in this field is as evident as can be. There is a necessity to study the recent changes that have or have not happened in the national and racial identity of African-Americans, and especially among African-American children. Consequently, the research by Ramirez (1996) is one of the attempts to do it. The author presents the accurate research findings of the survey conducted by her, and these data are not very optimistic. Despite the fact that over the latest decades the numbers of people of color in the world, and especially in the United States of America, has increased dramatically – from 10% of the total population to 25% thereof, the attitudes towards the so called “minorities” still leaves much too be desired, and the roots of this problem should be looked for in the black community itself. The author draws readers’ attention to the issues that are observed in the African-American children who tend to be ashamed of their identity and display low self-esteem because of this while communicating with white children.

The proof of the rather problematic situation regarding the race stereotyping and self-identity are the attitudes of children towards their class-mates in school and in kindergarten. The surveys of such attitudes presented in the works by numerous scholars are rather relevant and valuable sources of the most updated information. Thus, the article by Boulton (1996) is the bright example of the survey that was carried out in a school in Great Britain. The aim of the aim of the researcher was to find out the attitudes of white and non-white children to each other in terms of whom they “like the most” and “like the least”. The findings impressed the researcher greatly as 100% of white children “liked the least” their non-white classmates while among the latter, boys “liked the most” their classmates of the same race and girls displayed no difference in their attitudes towards whites and non-whites. These findings are manifestations of the still existing issue of race and self-identity, and its solution should be first of all developed for children because people’s attitudes are formed in the early age.

Therefore, researchers deal with this issue with special attention. The topics of children’s identity and attitudes towards their races are under constant consideration. Scholars try, and this research paper will try as well, to understand the attitudes of children towards themselves as reflections in the mirror. To achieve this, Clark & Clark Doll technique is widely implemented in research. For instance, according to Alarcon and Szalacha (2000), whose research was based on the Clark & Clark method, children seem to be ashamed of their color of skin and identity because of the public attitudes and greater mainstream popularity of the white race and all images including toys and dolls that are of obviously “white race”.

However, this situation is in some cases a matter of personal preferences and psychology of this or that child. For instance, based on his or her preferences and reasons, a child can refuse to play with a white doll just because he or she can not identify it with his or her complexion, etc. The article by Ducille (1994) for instance, develops this topic and presents examples of such surprising attitudes in children, mainly of the African-American race. At the same tome, Levander (2005) is concerned with the issues of whiteness, thus presenting the information about the opposite side of the issue – the attitudes of white children towards their identities in the context of domination of white mainstream culture in the modern society. This dominance is the subject of the article by Cross & Cross (2005) who are concerned with reasons for it and with the influence of the social moral standards and means of their proper improvement.

On the basis of the above presented data, I can assume that the Clark & Clark Doll experiment needs to be revisited and applied to the modern children in order to understand their motivations for being ashamed or not ashamed of their race. There is, moreover, the necessity to examine the ways in which children identify themselves and what factors affect their identification choices.


Alarcón, O., & Szalacha, L. A. (2000). The Color of My Skin: a Measure to Assess Children’s Perceptions of Their Skin Color. Applied Developmental Science, 4(4), 208-221.

Bagby-Young, Valencia L. (2008). Mirror, mirror on the dresser, why are Black dolls still viewed as lesser? When Black children turn a blind face to their own race: The doll study revisited. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 69(2-B), pp. 1351.

Boulton, Michael J. (1996). Liking and peer perceptions among Asian and White British children. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 13(2), pp. 163-177.

Cross, J. R., & Cross, T. L. (2005). Social Dominance, Moral Politics and Gifted Education. Roeper Review, 28(1), 21+.

Ducille, A. (1994). Dyes and Dolls: Multicultural Barbie and the Merchandising of Difference. Differences, 6(1), 46-68.

Gregor, A., James, U. (1966). Racial attitudes among white and Negro children in a deep-South standard metropolitan area. Journal of Social Psychology, 68(1), pp. 95-106.

Levander, C. (2005). Witness and Participant: Frederick Douglass’s Child. Studies in American Fiction, 33(2), 183+.

Myers, R. (2002). Young children’s perceptions and attitudes about race and ethnicity. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 62(11-A), pp. 3684.

Powell-Hopson, D. (1992). Implications of doll color preferences among Black preschool children and White preschool children. African American psychology: Theory, research, and practice, pp. 183-189.

Ramirez, Deborah A. (1996). Multiracial identity in a color-conscious world. The multiracial experience: Racial borders as the new frontier. Root, Maria P. P. (Ed); pp. 49-62.

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