Maria Tineo

Developing Leaders Through Graduate Education

Purdue University




Rosanne Flores, Ph.D.

Trends in Research on Children: A Look at Race and Ethnicity in Children Labeled At-Risk

A major concern with research on children is the understanding of vulnerability that leads to adverse behavioral consequences. Often difference in age level, race and ethnicity, social/economic class, and nationality are examined in the research. A key question is whether at-risk children tend to be labeled differently based on minority group status. In this study, we examined the recent research literature on at-risk children to determine the extent of ethnic identity in the designation of at-risk. Two recent years of the journal Child Development (2005-2006) were coded for the characteristics of the children studied. A total of 29 of the 150 articles included children labeled at–risk. Using a coding scheme established by Hagen (Hagen, Pacynski, and Aziz, 2007), each article was coded for the children’s race and ethnicity, social economic status (SES), and country of residence. Then a set of categories subdividing the at-risk characteristics was employed as well. These categories were classified as follows: Intellectual/Cognitive, Social/Emotional, Academic Risk, Addictions, and Parent-Child Interactions. The purpose of these categories was to determine if there are differential risk factors associated with ethnic background. Major differences were found for the specific at-risk categories and the race and ethnicity of subject groups. The Intellectual/ Cognitive category was primarily White children, while the Social/ Emotional and the Academic Risk categories were composed mainly of African American and Hispanic/ Latino children. Therefore, the at-risk categories are not distributed equally across groups. The significance of these findings suggests that the context of how risk is defined is important and that it may be often differential applied to racial and ethnic groups in applied child development research.