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Environmental and Family Associations With Racism


  • 1The authors thank the Department of Psychology at the College of Charleston for financial assistance with this project.


Environmental and family factors related to racism in college students were investigated. Students (N=114) at a southern liberal-arts college filled out an extensive survey about childhood activities and family of origin, and 40 of their mothers completed a similar survey. The Attitudes Toward Blacks (Brigham, 1993) scale measured racism. Several hypotheses were supported. Students who exhibited less racism also reported that they made more diverse friends in school, came from a more diverse hometown, had diverse encounters and friendships at an earlier age, and had more positive foreign travel experiences. In addition, more racist students perceived their mothers as being more prejudiced while they were growing up, and they perceived their fathers as being more prejudiced currently. Finally, students judged their mothers as less racist than their fathers, and also reported that their mothers exhibited less racist behaviors than did their fathers. The importance of racially diverse experiences and friendships early in life are discussed as means to decrease racism.