Hispanic and African-American children often bear the brunt of academic discipline in schools. But as the report details: “Several investigators have found that many low-income ethnic minority children exhibit relatively high levels of self-regulation compared to other children ... [and] are also likely to be socially competent (i.e., able to cooperate and get along with others), which also promotes school readiness.”
There are also the many studies showing that low-income minority children tend to show deficits in language abilities and vocabulary, mainly as a function of the economic hardship experienced by their families.
Less publicized is that even low-income African-American preschoolers often possess oral narrative skills that may promote later success in reading achievement.
“A review of the literature revealed that African-American children produce narratives of higher quality and have greater narrative comprehension than white children,” the report shows, with “similar findings ... reported for bilingual children. For instance, bilingual children are reported to have enhanced executive control in nonverbal tasks requiring conflict resolution as compared to monolingual children.”
Lastly, there are strengths stemming from a strong family culture or ethnic identity, which is commonly assumed — often incorrectly — to be inferior, fragmented or overshadowed by the financial pressures of poverty.
Both security in their own racial and ethnic identity and a strong sense of family obligation is positively correlated with students who exhibit fewer behavior problems. These students also often report reduced substance abuse and are more socially competent, the authors say.
Emilie Smith, the head of SRCD’s Ethnic and Racial Issues Committee, told me it’s imperative to jump-start widespread acknowledgment of minority student strengths.
“There have been a few pretty famous longitudinal studies of minorities but they are usually about the smaller proportions of them who have large issues and challenges to development,” Smith said.