Bidirectional Influence Between African American Mothers’ and Children’s Racial Centrality From Elementary Through High School

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For many African Americans, racial identity is an important aspect of their individual identity. We explored developmental change and stability of individual differences in the racial centrality of African American youths and their mothers as well as the relation between maternal and child racial centrality across time. African American youths (N = 380) and mothers completed surveys when youths were in grades 5, 7, 10, and 12. Mean levels of youths’ racial centrality did not increase or decrease across the 7 years of the study. The stability of individual differences in youths’ racial centrality increased across time, reaching adult levels by high school. Cross-lagged panel analyses showed relations between mothers’ and children’s racial centrality in middle adolescence but not in early and late adolescence. Results document that the importance of race to the personal identities of African American youths does not show normative developmental change across adolescence, and only minimal change is linked to maternal influence.

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