The construction of the “other”: Developmental perspectives on the pervasiveness of racism, colonialism, exclusion and marginalization of the “other”


The following proposal is being submitted by the Latino Caucus in collaboration with our Tri-Caucus partners.


Our historical era has witnessed the explosion of overt racism and other versions of both explicit and implicit exclusionary behaviors, manifested in individual and group behaviors, daily practices, policies, and even armed conflicts against the “other” and “outgroups”; These “out-groups” can be based on class, race/ethnicity, religion, birthplace, gendered behaviors, sexual orientation, ability, and other sociocultural characteristics. We also know that these categories are socially constructed and that for many individuals and groups, intersectionality creates even more risk. As we strive for inclusion, diversity and pluralism around the world, fundamentalist reactions to exclude the “other” appear commonplace.

The proposed special topics meeting would highlight research from a wide variety of interdisciplinary perspectives regarding the construction of the “other”; how do these attitudes and behaviors develop?; why are they so endemic?; what are the contextual conditions that lead to their adoption and, in contrast, to their extinction? We know for example, that in the first years of life, the “other”; is increasingly identified by the language they speak, the “racialized” features that they do not share with the “in-group”; and the “gendered”; behaviors children observe. Why are these particular “others” learned and developed so early? How modifiable are they in the later stages of development? What contextual conditions maintain them or modify them?

We also know how detrimental the attitudes, behaviors, practices and policies that ensue from these constructions affect target individuals and groups. Thus, a second set of research questions will also be included: What does it mean to develop over time within a marginalized group? What are the short- and long-term health and well being consequences of racism on target groups and individuals over time? What are resilience factors that help overcome marginalization and mitigate negative consequences? What effective culturally appropriate interventions lead to healthy long-term development among individuals facing marginalization?

The invited sessions will emphasize the following key factors in answering the proposed questions: understanding how children learn and develop categories of the “other”; examining the evidence on how stable or modifiable these categories at different ages are; identifying the contextual attributes that contribute to the maintenance or fluidity of these constructions; understanding the developmental trajectory of children from marginalized groups in regards to cognitive, social, and health domains; the impact of racism on the short-and long-term cognitive, social, and healthy development of individuals who face marginalization; the effectiveness of laboratory based and real life interventions that result in prejudice reduction and better intergroup relations; and the impact of immigration policies, media, and technology on transnationalism practices.

The main premise of the meeting is to move developmental science forward towards a better understanding of these phenomena and to identify innovative approaches to create more inclusive and integrated societies. One or two edited books or special issues in research journals will be produced highlighting the research on the key topics presented at this meeting.

Ideally this meeting will be held in Puerto Rico, during the winter. This specific location would provide a context for establishing connections with groups considered to be marginalized and provide greater access to scholars, both in Latin America and around the world, engaging in this work. We propose that this conference be held in the late winter/early spring (February -May) when airfares are most reasonable. Further, we believe this will be a very affordable location, given the tourism industries’ eagerness to host conventions and meetings.


This topic is so important for moving scholarship on child development forward. It’s also timely!


I think this is a critically important area. Developmental scientists need to be poised with evidence-based positions to combat racism in our society.


This topic is critical! I think an inclusion of understanding racism among White children and families is essential. The FBI recently determined that the greatest threat to the US includes alt-right or right wing extremist groups, comprised mainly of White men! We know little to nothing regarding the process of how White males get radicalized into neo-Nazi or right wing extremist groups and that needs to change!

Some basic questions that I have include: 1) how do White children learn to be racist? 2) Who are the primary racist socializing agents? 3) How does racism get reinforced in families, schools, neighborhoods, religious institutions? 4) Are there points during childhood and adolescence in which racism can be circumvented?


This topic will bring in so many related disciplines within SRCD: developmentalists, cultural anthropologists, social developmentalists, sociologists, cultural psychologists, and family researchers. It has a wide appeal and will bring together a multidisciplinary group of researchers - all of whom can learn from each other on the behalf of children. The topic also focuses on learning and construction of knowledge, but in a way that has real life implications during a very critical time in history. This will allow SRCD researchers to put their research to work and do what they love to do: promote research that will support healthy child development!


This sounds like a really exciting opportunity to bring different groups of researchers together around important issues. People who work on children’s social cognition and conceptions of groups could get a lot out of talking to those interested in identity development and experience of marginalization (and vice versa).


Really important topic that I would love to support! There’s been lots of work on the development of group concepts and ingroup vs. outgroup biases, but far less work on the development of racism (i.e., reinforcing social hierarchies). There are so many open questions, for example, What motivates children to reinforce racial hierarchies? How do they learn about racial hierarchies? What motivates children to be ANTI-racist? What do these processes look like across high-status and low-status groups?

I also LOVE the idea of including people who look at the development of these processes, as well as those that focus more on the consequences of them. There is far too little cross-talk between these two areas, which is unfortunate.

It might also be fruitful to invite practitioners, if possible. My lab has been collaborating with an international organization that uses brain and behavioral sciences to reduce conflict across over 75 countries. I know that they would be eager to learn from us (and teach us about ways to use our insights to have real-world impact).

This is exciting!


Great topic. I’d be interested in looking at issues of measurement; most national datasets do not include measures of racism and discrimination. The current narrative is that lack of education and income make you poor, but have not explicitly shown how racism and discrimination make you poor.It’d be great to also issues of intersectionality.


This topic would be highly relevant to cognitive, clinical, and social developmentists and would provide an opportunity to consider multiple methodologies in tackling a critical question that has far reaching implications. Would love to see a special issue emerge from this conference!


This is a topic that is relevant to diverse children’s development, including children from groups that experience marginalization and children from groups that experience privilege. I am eager for the opportunity to support the development of a version of developmental science that spans from the antecedents of racist attitudes and behaviors to the consequences of them for the self and others. I have been thinking of Fuller and García Coll (2010): Learning from Latinos. What have we learned about White children from decades of research with Children of Color? We have learned that they have learned to other and that the racial hierarchy makes their othering consequential. It is time to create collaborations and support conversations that facilitate a better understanding of this phenomenon. This is something that a member organization dedicated to advancing developmental science should be concerned about addressing.


This topic is not only timely but extremely necessary! It represents a fertile opportunity to slowly work towards ending cycles of exclusion and discrimination. I would be interested in examining children and adolescents’ views on these controversial topics. How do they perceive the “other”, particularly in the context of adversity and need?


This is a critical topic. As noted by Seaton, this topic should be extended towards an understanding on how White Children develop an understanding of race and ethnicity. Given the drastic increase in hate crimes, the changing demographics of the United States, and the growing understanding that color-blind ideology fails to address critical issues centered around ethnicity and race, we need a greater understanding.


What an important and timely topic. In addition to its social significance, this workshop can facilitate multidisciplinary work: Researchers who study contexts that facilitate and maintain racism in it’s many forms, social cognitive development (from more basic to social approaches), identity processes and development (using social and developmental psychological frameworks), the role of parents and peers, and implications for practitioners. This topic would also generate interest from researchers and practitioners outside the United States.


I agree! This topic intersects many different aspects of developmental science and I am sure will generate interest from researchers throughout the US and abroad.


Mentioned by several responders is this idea of “how do these attitudes and behaviors develop?” This is a key question within this proposal. It is important to study not only the impact of racism and marginalization on development, but also how racism develops and why certain children choose to engage in and reinforce these racial hierarchies.


I agree that this topic is important and timely. I also wonder if it would be appropriate to consider how developmental psychology as a field, including our theories, research methods and instruments, support the perpetuation of systems of privilege and oppression. In our work with American Indian and Alaska Native communities, we collaborate closely with our community partners to co-construct research, and we often struggle with understanding how existing theories and instruments apply in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.


Thank you for proposing this topic, as others have mentioned, its importance cannot be underscored enough. Looking forward, I would love to see some presentations focused on interventions and/or policies that have the potential to increase inclusion. For example, Besty Levy Paluck’s work on school-based social norms would be terrific to highlight. It would also be great to highlight various facets of “otherness” across a range of social categories. For example, Kristina Olson’s work on gender diversity would be a great contribution.


I agree that it would be great to include research on policies, programs, and practices that foster the development of anti-bias attitudes in children and create more inclusive and equitable contexts for development (e.g., across educational settings, neighborhoods, community spaces, service providers). This is becoming a topic of greater focus in our early childhood teacher preparation program.


As others have noted, this topic is very timely and critically important. I really appreciate that the proposal put forth by the Tri-Caucaus partnership considers the topic from multiple vantage points and has the potential to foster productive cross-disciplinary conversations. Very exciting!


Such a timely and important topic! A gathering of scholars to comprehensively address serious challenges to the well being of our societies. SRCD needs to demonstrate its ability to tackle such complex social issues and this conference would be a jump start.